Ministry Studies Run-of-River Dams in France | Times Reporters

Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Mr Sinava Souphanouvong led a Lao delegation on a study tour in France from June 8-14 to learn about the operation of run-of-river dams on the Rhone River.

The main aim of the visit was for officials to see these dams for themselves, and to learn about sustainable management of the water used in the dams.

Mr Sinava Souphanouvong (centre) and other officials tour run-of-dams on the Rhone River in France from June 8-14.

The lessons learned from their visit will enable the government to make plans for the development of similar structures on the Mekong River.

The Lao delegation visited the offices of Compagnie Nationale du Rhone (CNR) to hear a report on hydropower development on the Rhone River.

They also witnessed sediment flushing at the Genissiat dam which operates under the run-of-river concept, located on the upper reaches of the river near the border with Switzerland.

Sediment flushing is undertaken every three years in all the dams on the river, starting from the first dam in Switzerland until the last one located in France to sustain the river’s aquatic life and ecosystems.

The lessons learned from France will inform Lao officials as they explain their plans for hydropower development to downstream Mekong countries and groups that have concerns about su ch developments on the Mekong.

Lao officials were confident they would be able to create a model run-of-river dam based on sustainable development and transparency for the collective benefit of countries that share the Mekong.

The Rhone is one of the major rivers in Europe. It originates with snow and ice melt from the Rhône Glacier (at 1773 m. elevation) in Switzerland. The river basin encompasses 98,000 km2 of land in France and Switzerland.

The river is 750km long and passes through Lake Geneva before entering France, where it runs for 512 km before flowing into the Mediterranean.

The Ministry of Energy and Mines said the natural characteristics of the Rhone are similar to those of the Mekong such as the geology, water flow, sediment and biology.

For hundreds of years, the Rhone has been developed in line with varying objectives. In the 17th century a dam was built to prevent flooding. In the 18th century navigation routes were developed and the 19th century saw the start of hydropower development .

In 1943, the French government gave permission for CNR to develop 19 hydropower dams on the river. The current capacity of the 19 dams is 3,000MW with total electricity production of 14.5 billion kWh per year.

The 19 dams designed by CNR have become models for cascade dams around the world. They not only generate electricity but also enable the development of towns along the river.

The study tour in France gave Lao officials a better understanding of run-of-river dams, which are considered to be environmentally friendly.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update July 2, 2012)

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