Don Sahong Hydropower Plant Not Yet Under Construction

Vientiane Times, 14 Sept 2012

Construction of the Don Sahong hydropower plant in Champassak province, one of the planned development projects on the lower Mekong River has not begun, according to the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

The ministry made the announcement yesterday concerning the development of the 256MW hydropower project in the Hou Sahong channel, which lies in the southern section of the Mekong in Laos.

Google map shows the Siphandone area in Champassak province where the Don Sahong hydropower plant will be built.

The International Non Government Organisation, International River, which opposes dam development projects in Laos, earlier this month accused the government of starting to build the dam without prior consultation with the Mekong River Commission (MRC) member countries, in violation of the 1995 agreement.

“There is absolutely no truth in the report written by International River. No physical work has started at or near the Don Sahong project. There has been no activity or any preparatory or preliminary work,” the Energy Policy and Planning Department said as quoted in the project development update report. “The developer has not appointed any contractor to do any physical work.”

The department said the Lao government will follow the MRC agreement and guidelines in developing the hydropower plant. So far, it has only given permission for the project developers to study fish migration in the area.

The results of the study will enable them to develop an environmentally friendly project, and ensure fish migration in line with MRC dam construction guidelines.

The developers, Mega First Corporation Berhad of Malaysia and Electricite du Laos, have hired fishery experts to study fish and their migration at the project site.

The project developers have been conducting fishery studies in the area since the start of 2009 and the work is still continuing, aiming to provide scientific and factual knowledge of the movement of fish populations.

According to the study, in addition to the Sahong channel, there are 16 other channels in the Siphandone area of the Mekong that fish migrate through.

To provide for fish migration in this section of the Mekong and maintain sustainable fishery in the Siphandone area, the Sahong power project developers have given funding and support to local authorities and communities to improve fish passage in the Hou Xangpheuk channel.

“Physical barriers such as rocks, tree stumps and fish traps were removed by local villagers using hand held tools to enable the free passage of fish, especially in the dry season. There is no blasting of a single piece of rock or blasting of any waterfalls,” the report said.

“This is a community service contribution by the developers to ensure that more fish are able to migrate and spawn in the Mekong River and thus help to increase the fish population over the medium and long term and ensure sustainability.”

The Ministry of Energy and Mines says the Lao government is committed to complying with the 1995 MRC agreement before allowing work to begin on the Don Sahong project.

The Lao government signed an MOU with Mega First Corporation Berhad to conduct studies on the Sahong dam in 2006. The two sides reached a project development agreement in 2008, which the Lao government extended in March this year.

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