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Regional Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on MRC's Hydropower Programme
The Mekong Region is enjoying consisten economic growth. As a result, the region's demand for nergy is rapidly increasing. This and the rising portance of regional trade and investment flows, have stimulated a new era of hydropower development in the basin

Regional  Multi-Stakeholder Consultation

on MRC's  Hydropower Programme

Vientiane,   Lao  PDR,  25-27  September  2008



The   Mekong   Region   is  enjoying       consistent         economic          growth. As   a  result,   the  region's demand  for  energy  is  rapidly  increasing. This  and  the  rising  importance   of regional  trade  and investment flows,  have  stimulated a new era of hydropower  development in  the  basin. In response to  market demands, a broad range of developers         are now   investigating        a  large number   of  potential    projects,   many   of  which   were   identified        as  early   as  the   1960s.  Many concession   agreements   are  already  at advanced  stages  of negotiation.   Projects  for the  Mekong mainstream       are   among   them   as  these   are  now   seen   as  more   viable   due   to  the   expected increase   in  dry  season   flows  that  will  result  from  construction        of  dam  projects   in  the  upper Mekong   Basin  in  China,  as  well  as  high  oil  prices.       Concerns   over  climate   change  provide  a further  impetus  for hydropowver  development   as a renewable   source  of energy.

Hydropower  generation   potential and  energy   demand   are  geographically imbalanced, thus highlighting the   importance of  and  opportunities   for  an  emerging regional power   market. This   regional dimension  is  the   driver   behind   most   of  the   current projects with  ilateral agreements   for the  export  of electricity.

The  MRC   approved its  Hydropower Strategy in  2001   and  drafted   a  Concept   Note   for  its Hydropower   Programme (HP) in 2005. These  documents   were  a  comprehensive attempt  to interpret   emerging international       good  practice   and   layout    what   it  meant   for  the  Mekong region,  and  identify  strategic  work  areas  and possible  components   of the  programme.

Although   due  to  funding   constraints       the  HP  has  not  yet  formally   started,   a  number   of  the strategic  directions      Assessment of  cumulative impacts of basin-wide water resources development and activities   identified   under  the  Strategy   have  been   incorporated         into  other related  MRC  programmes. Some  of  the  elements   under  the  Concept   Note  are  actively   being implemented,   including:

·         Options,  including   hydropower   development   on the  mainstream  and  tributaries   - under. the  Basin  Development   Plan  (BDP)  Programme;

·         Providing   assessment   tools  for  environmental   and  social  aspects,  with  particular   focus on   trans-boundary impacts;  and synthesizing regionally appropriate sustainability considerations for hydropower            development     -  under   the   Environment Programme (EP); and

·         Broadening   our  understanding   of the  impacts  of dams  on  fish  migration,   spawning  and fisheries production -  under the Fisheries Programme (FP)

In  recognizing the  complexities  but also the pace of hydropower development in  the  basin, MRC  proposes a  multi-track approach for its   Hydropower Programme. 

Track 1  aims  at improving understanding of   the   regional implications of   hydropower projects within a relatively short  timeframe. Some  aspects,   such  as  changes   in  the  flow  regime,   water  quality and  sedimentation are  already   incorporated   into  the  study   of  cumulative impacts of  various development  scenarios   under  the  BDP.  But  there  are  other  important   questions   to  answer  that go  beyond   the  scope   of  anyone individual   project   developer, financing agency or  national line   agency.   For   example, Track1  of the  HP  will  focus  on  one   of the most important questions facing mainstream hydropower   development   -  to  what  extent  can  the  barrier effect of mainstream   dams  be  minimized   or successfully   mitigated?

Track   2  would   take   a  longer   term   perspective      and   require   more   detailed formulation. It incorporates   two  types  of  activities. The  first  would  build  on  and  share  knowledge,   making available   the  vast  array  of  experience   already  gained  with  integrating   improved   governance, social   and   environmental aspects into   hydropower            development. Some of   the   activities proposed   involve  expanding   MRC's   database  on  existing,  planned   and  proposed   hydropower projects;           building capacity for   strategic environmental assessment  through a case study covering the  mainstream           of  the  Lower  Mekong  Basin;  supporting   the  Navigation   Programme in   developing standard specifications and   protocols for   navigation locks; supporting the Environment Programme implement the   initiative on   Environmental Considerations for Sustainable Hydropower   Development; disseminating policy options for benefit sharing from hydropower   projects;  improving   availability   of environmental   baseline  data;  building  capacity for   independent monitoring among   respective       line   agencies; and   carrying out   an   initial scoping assessment          of the potential for   small-scale      decentralized     hydropower      for  rural communities.   Other  tracks  to the  HP  may  be identified  during  the  formulation   process.

In  each  of  the  various   activities,   the  role  of  HP  would   be  one  of  a  facilitator   of  dialogue among  different   groups   according   to  the  nature   of  the  issue  involved.   With  its  mandate   and regional   scope,  MRC  can  reach  out  to  the  full  range  of  stakeholders.       At  this  initial   stage,  at least  four  areas  of  dialogue   are  proposed   for  further  consideration:   joint  ministerial   briefings across  relevant   sectors   in  each  of  the  member   countries   aimed   at  discussing        good  practice; dialogue           meetings             among            private  sector   developers       and   financiers             to   explore     areas   of improving   performance         from  a  basin  perspective   and  ensuring   consistency      and  coordination on  environmental mitigation measures; a  regional      multi-stakeholder  forum   for   structured debate  on  key  issues  facing  the  sector  and  continued   strengthening   of  discussion   with  MRC's Dialogue  Partnerss onthe  implications   of upstream  developments.

Consultation Objective

The  primary  objective   of the  Regional  Consultation   is to:

·         gather   information on   the  scope   and   approach of   MRC'semerging Hydropower Programme,  which  will  help  shape  it into  an effective  and  relevant  initiative;

·         provide an opportunity to assess and disseminateactivities   under  Track 1 of  the  HP and  related  activities  of other  programmes;

·         promote MRC's role  in facilitating dialogue on important   aspects of  hydropower development that require an integrated  basin  perspective; and

·         provide  a forum  for discussing   some  of the  key  issues  facing  hydropower   development in the  Basin

Outcomes  of the  Consultation

The  expected  outcomes   of the  Consultation   are:

·           recommendations on  the  further  formulation   process   of  the  HydropowerProgramme, in particular   on scope,  structure  and  implementation arrangements;

·           improved   understanding of  the  Mekong  hydropower   development context   and  its  key issues;

·           consideration on   the   institutionalisation of   the   Consultation as an  annual event, possibly with  regular email  updates   on  key  issues   and  interaction through  technical workshops/seminars in the  intervening   period,  as needed.


The  invited   participants           to  the  Consultation would  be  senior  officials   of  the  Governments  of MRC  Member   States  and  Dialogue   Partners;   representatives of  the owners and  operators   of existing   hydropower schemes;   developers   of  hydropower        projects   and  their  advisers;   local,  regional   and  global   commercial         banks   and  international financial institutions; export credit agencies; environmental and social experts; NGOs and  civil society groups;            MRC Development  Partners;   professional   associations;   research  groups;  and  the  media.

In  the  order   of  80  to   120  people   to  participate this   is  considered as  an appropriate   number   to  ensure   effective   discussion        and  interaction. Inevitably   there  may  be more  demand  for  places,  and  MRCS   ensures  a balanced   representation among  the  groups listed  above.  If space  limitations   prevail,  some  groups  may be  requested   to  group  together  and identify  a representative   to present  their  views  at the  Consultation.

Date,  Venue  and  Tentative   Programme

The   Consultation  was   on   25-27 September,    2008            in  Vientiane, Lao   PDR.   A  field  visit  to  a  hydropower   project   site  in  Lao  PDR   required   two additional   days.  

The  programme   with  following  elements  are  envisaged:

  • Introduction       to  MRC's    role relating to hydropower development and   its  emerging Hydropower   Programme;
  • Initial   outcome   of  HP's   Track   1  activities,   including   the  Expeli   Group   Meeting   on barrier  effects  of dams;
  • Summaries   of  relevant   activities   being  fast-tracked  under   related   MRC   programmes(BDP,  EP, FP);
  • Country   presentations        on   hydropower   development   -   past,   present and   future(Cambodia,   Lao  PDR,  Thailand,  Vietnam);
  • Hydropower   development   in the  Upper  Mekong  Basin  (Myanmar   and  China)
  • Regional power market in the GMS region;
  • Related  initiatives   of other  organizations;
  • Perspectives of private sector developers
  • Perspectives     of  financiers   -   commercial     banks,   export   credit   agencies,   international finance  institutions
  • Perspectives   of  civil  society;
  • New  developments   at policy  level;
  • Feedback and          facilitated     discussion    on    formulation      of    MRC's Hydropower Programme.


The most attractive presentations at the Consultation Meeting will be found in

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