Don Sahong Dam

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Don Sahong Dam
Don Sahong Dam is located in Laos
Don Sahong Dam
Location of Don Sahong Dam
Location Champasak Province, Laos
Coordinates 13°56′37.87″N 105°57′22.62″E / 13.9438528°N 105.9562833°E / 13.9438528; 105.9562833Coordinates: 13°56′37.87″N 105°57′22.62″E / 13.9438528°N 105.9562833°E / 13.9438528; 105.9562833
Status Proposed
Owner(s) Mega First Corporation Berhad
IJM Corporation
Dam and spillways
Impounds Mekong
Height 32 m (105 ft)
Power station
Installed capacity 260 MW (max. planned)

The Don Sahong is a proposed hydroelectric dam on the Mekong River in Siphandone area of Champasak Province, southern Laos. It is located less than two kilometers upstream of the Laos–Cambodia border.[1]

History[edit]

In March 2006, the Government of Laos signed a memorandum of understanding with the Malaysian engineering and construction company Mega First Corporation Berhad for a feasibility study of the project.[1][2] In February 2008, a project development agreement was signed.[1] In June 2008, Mega First Corporation Berhad formed a joint venture with IJM Corporation for the project development. Mega First Corporation Berhad owns 70% of shares in the joint venture while IJM Corporation has 30%.[3] On the 3rd of October 2013, the Government of Laos notified the Mekong River Commission of its intention to construct the Don Sahong Dam.[4] The notification was one month ahead of the planned construction date. This was controversial among other Mekong River Commission member states Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam, who argued that as a mainstream dam, Don Sahong is subject to Prior Consultation under the Mekong River Commission Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation, and Agreement (PNPCA).[5] Under these procedures, the proponent nation of a mainstream dam is required to not only notify neighbouring countries of its intention, but also to undertake a consultation aimed at reaching consensus with neighbouring states.[6] The Government of Laos has maintained that as the dam site is only on a channel within the mainstream of the river, it is not subject to the process of Prior Consultation like dams that cover the entire mainstream such as the Xayaburi dam.[7] At a meeting of the Mekong River Commission's joint-committee on the 16th of January 2014, the member states were unable to reach consensus on whether the dam was subject to Prior Consultation, and referred the process to the ministerial level - the highest decision-making level in Commission.[8] The PNPCA, a part of the 1995 Mekong Agreement aims to reach consensus among nations, however is non-binding as was demonstrated in the case of Xayaburi dam, which has proceeded despite no consensus from the Prior Consultation process.[9] The dam has also sparked controversy among civil society groups, especially in Cambodia, where groups are concerned about impacts on fisheries.[10] One group went so far as to call for a boycott of the iconic Angkor beer, given the brewer's financial involvements with dam developers.[11]

Description[edit]

The Don Sahong Dam is a Run-of-the-river hydroelectricity facility[12] that would be located at the downstream end of the Hou Sahong channel between Don Sahong and Don Sadam islands. The dam's height would be between 30 and 32 metres (98 and 105 ft). It would have a capacity of 260 MW. Most of the produced electricity would be exported to Thailand and Cambodia.[1]

Developers, engineers and financiers[edit]

The developer backing the Don Sahong Dam is Mega First Corporation Berhad,[13] a Malaysian company which owns the British Virgin Islands-incorporated company Don Sahong Power Company.[14]

Engineering feasibility studies were completed by AECOM.[15]

Impact[edit]

Developers suggest that the project would have "no significant impact" on the local environment,[16] however both the governments of Cambodia and Vietnam, and a variety of civil society groups have raised concerns over uncertain or likely impacts, especially on fisheries.[17] Many independent fisheries experts conclude that the dam would have a serious impact on fish migration as the channel is the only one within the Khone Falls complex that is passable to migratory fishes in the dry-season, and the major migration channel year-round.[1][18][19][20]

The developers argue that given the declining local fish catches, the removal of fish traps from the much smaller channels surrounding the dam site, as well as other modifications to depth and channel bathymetry will enable these routes to replace the Don Sahong as a passage way for fish migration.[21][22] The viability of these alternative routes has been questioned by government representatives of Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam, with the latter suggesting "it is not possible to replace the modified channels for upstream fish migration with the existing Hou Sahong".[23] Scientists have raised a large number of concerns over the adequacy of the EIA, queried this approach to fishery mitigation as experimental and unproven, and labelling the belief mitigations measures would be effective as "faith based".[24]

The Don Sahong Hydropower Project would pose a major threat to the Mekong River's critically endangered population of Irrawaddy dolphin.[25] The risk is considered very high for the small resident sub-population living in the Veun Nyang/Anlong Cheuteal pool that straddles the Lao/Cambodian border, and is the only remaining dolphin population in Laos.[25][26][27] The Don Sahong Dam is predicted to cause the extirpation of dolphins from Laos.[25] Threats to the dolphins include the blasting of large volumes of rock from the channel, the intensive heavy industrial activity at the site, and modifications to the river flows. The construction plan for the Don Sahong Project excludes underwater blasting downstream of the dam site.[27] Almost all excavation will be from drained sections of the upper Hou Sahong, though blasting would still occur very near the dolphins behind a coffer dam.[16][22] Despite this minor mitigation effort, damage to the dolphin's sensitive hearing structures is expected and could prove fatal.[25] Mechanical excavation would also continue below the dam to very near the animals. Other risks identified include the long-term effects of disturbance and stress on the animals, and the demographic consequences if the sub-population near the dam was extirpated.[25] The persistence of threats at the site means that only the lowest risk activities are compatible with dolphin persisting in the area,[25][27] though developers state that "construction impacts [on dolphins are] necessary".[28]

The project would reduce flow to the Khone Phapheng Falls and surrounding channels.[1] Environmental Impact Assessment documents indicate that the guaranteed flow would be the equivalent of an extreme dry-season low-flow (800 cubic meters per second).[29]

As the Siphandone area is considered as a potential Ramsar site, construction of the dam would threaten its eligibility for the Ramsar status.[1]

The Thako Project is another hydroelectric project proposed for the Phapheng channel, which is adjacent to the Sahong channel and also within the Siphandone.[30] The Thako and Don Sahong projects are economically incompatible due to competition for the same water resources.[30] Thako has been promoted as more sustainable than Don Sahong as it does not block a river channel. However, it would produce less electricity. Feasibility and EIA processes have been completed for both proposals, but the government of Laos is yet to agree to either proposal.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "The Don Sahong Hydropower Project" (PDF). International Rivers. September 2008. Retrieved 2011-02-06. 
  2. ^ "Mega First to invest in Laos electricity project". Intellasia News Services. 2006-03-30. Retrieved 2011-02-06. 
  3. ^ "IJM to undertake Laos hydropower project with MFCB". The Egde Daily. Intellasia News Services. 2008-06-13. Retrieved 2011-02-06. 
  4. ^ MRC (3 October 2013). "Lao PDR submits notification on Don Sahong Hydropower Project". Mekong River Commission. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  5. ^ MRC (16 January 2014). "MRC takes Don Sahong Project discussions to ministerial level". Mekong River Commission. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  6. ^ MRC (1995). "AGREEMENT ON THE COOPERATION FOR THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MEKONG RIVER BASIN". Mekong River Commission. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  7. ^ Lao Delegation (16 January 2014). "Statement of Lao Delegation, Special MRC JC Meeting on Don Sahong Hydropower Project, Vientiane, January 16, 2014". Government of Laos. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  8. ^ MRC (16 January 2014). "MRC takes Don Sahong Project discussions to ministerial level". Mekong River Commission. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  9. ^ The Economist (November 3, 2012). "Damming the Mekong river: River elegy". The Economist. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  10. ^ Hruby, Denise (16 October 2013). "Don Sahong Dam in Laos to Worsen Nutrition in Cambodia". The Cambodia Daily. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  11. ^ DENE-HERN CHEN; KUCH NAREN (22 October 2013). "Calls for Angkor Beer Boycott Over Laos Dam Investment". The Cambodia Daily. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  12. ^ Ben Shane Lim (May 22, 2012). "Mega First gets nod for Laos dam". The Edge Financial Daily. Archived from the original on 2012-06-13. Retrieved 13 June 2012. 
  13. ^ "Our Businesses". Retrieved 3 May 2014. 
  14. ^ "IJM Corp Bhd sells its stake in BVI-registered joint venture". Retrieved 3 May 2014. 
  15. ^ "Don Sahong Hydropower Scheme, Lao PDR". Retrieved 3 May 2014. 
  16. ^ a b National Consulting Company (January 2013). DON SAHONG HYDROPOWER PROJECT, LAO PDR ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT FINAL. Mega First Corporation Berhad. 
  17. ^ RFA (2014-01-16). "Mekong Countries Call for Ministerial Talks on Don Sahong Dam". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  18. ^ . Nette, Andrew (2008-03-28). "Opting For The Big Dam". Inter Press Service. Retrieved 2011-02-06. 
  19. ^ Baird, Ian G. (2011). "The Don Sahong Dam: Potential Impacts on Regional Fish Migrations, Livelihoods, and Human Health". Critical Asia Studies (Taylor & Francis) 43 (2): 211–235. doi:10.1080/14672715.2011.570567. Retrieved 2013-01-08. 
  20. ^ Baran, Eric; Ratner, Blake (June 2007). "The Don Sahong dam and Mekong Fisheries" (PDF). World Fish Center. Retrieved 2013-01-08. 
  21. ^ "Don Sahong Hydropower Development Final Feasibility Study - Engineering: Volume 1 - Report". Mega First Corporation Berhad. 27 November 2009. Retrieved 2013-01-08. 
  22. ^ a b "The Don Sahong hydroelectricitc project, Lao PDR: Feasibility Study Report, Volume 1 - Report". Mega First Corporation Berhad. October 2007. Retrieved 2013-01-08. 
  23. ^ MRC (16 January 2014). "MRC takes Don Sahong Project discussions to ministerial level". Mekong River Commission. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  24. ^ "SUMMARY OF SCIENTIFIC REVIEWS FROM THREE INTERNATIONAL FISH PASSAGE EXPERTS ON THE DON SAHONG DAM EIA AND TECHNICAL REPORTS RELATED TO PROJECT DESIGN AND MITIGATION MEASURES". February 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2014. 
  25. ^ a b c d e f Ryan, Gerard Edward (February 2014). The Don Sahong dam and the Mekong dolphin (PDF) (Report). WWF. Retrieved 2014-05-03. 
  26. ^ Bezuijen, Mark R.; Zanre, Richard; Goichot, Marc (June 2007). The Don Sahong dam and the Irrawaddy dolphin (PDF) (Report). WWF. Retrieved 2013-01-08. 
  27. ^ a b c Ryan, Gerard E. (September 2012). Last chance for dolphins in Laos: A review of the history, threats, and status (PDF) (Report). WWF. Retrieved 2013-01-08. 
  28. ^ National Consulting Company (January 2013). DON SAHONG HYDROPOWER PROJECT, LAO PDR ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT FINAL. Mega First Corporation Berhad. pp. 4–12. 
  29. ^ National Consulting Company (January 2013). DON SAHONG HYDROPOWER PROJECT, LAO PDR ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT FINAL. Mega First Corporation Berhad. pp. 3–5. 
  30. ^ a b Duchense, L. (29 August 2011). THAKHO Hydropower and Tourism Development Project Feasibility Study – Final Report (2nd phase) (PDF) (Report). Electricite du Laos and Compagnie Nationale du Rhone. Retrieved 2013-01-08.