New Indicative Ending Date Set for Sanakham Dam Consultation

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The Mekong River in Chiang Khan district, Thailand. (Image: Engdao Wichitpunya / Alamy)
The Mekong River in Chiang Khan district, Thailand. (Image: Engdao Wichitpunya / Alamy)

An MRC governance meeting has agreed to a new indicative date to conclude the prior consultation process of the 684-megawatt Sanakham dam.

The decision by the MRC Joint Committee means the official six-month prior consultation process that began on 9 September 2019 for the proposed Sanakham Dam, will now aim to cease on 19 January 2022.

The Joint Committee also agreed to a revised road map to carry out the prior consultation process, following a special session of the Joint Committee Working Group that assembled on 30 August 2021. Proposals for a rapid impacts assessment were discussed and the meeting agreed to allow the MRC Secretariat to begin the procedure with immediate effect.

It is expected the assessment process will take two months and that a preliminary results report is due by 29 October 2021.

A drawing of the proposed Sanakham hydropower project. Courtesy of Datang (Lao) Sanakham Hydropower Co. Ltd.
A drawing of the proposed Sanakham hydropower project. Courtesy of Datang (Lao) Sanakham Hydropower Co. Ltd.

Dr. An Pich Hatda, MRC Secretariat Chief Executive Officer, said the assessment would incorporate more recent data and information and various scenarios of the Sanakham dam’s operation, considering potential transboundary impacts caused by rapid water fluctuations of the proposed dam.

“It is anticipated the assessment will provide up-to-date information to concerns raised by Member Countries and the public, during regional and national consultations, about potential transboundary negative impacts and to arrive at more informed management measures.”

The Sanakham dam is the sixth project to have been put forward to the MRC’s prior consultation process. The proposed site is located some 155 km north of Vientiane and is estimated to cost $2.073bn. It will be developed by Datang (Lao) Sanakham Hydropower company, a subsidiary of China’s Datang International Power Generation Co. Ltd.

The MRC Joint Committee meets twice a year to discuss management, organization, and cooperation matters as well as policy and strategic issues.