MRC Council approves new hydropower strategy

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Fishermen on the Mekong River in Chroy Changvar district. Hong Menea

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) Council has approved the Sustainable Hydropower Development Strategy (SHDS 2021) for the Lower Mekong Basin to address the future potential for hydropower developments on the river.

According to its press statement, the approval of the strategic document took place at the 28th MRC meeting and the 26th Consultation Meeting with Development Partners – both held on November 25 – chaired by Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon.

The SHDS 2021 is the culmination of efforts to produce a strategy for hydropower on the river that first commenced in 2017. The formulating process included an additional study on a range of hydropower development scenarios which began in 2018 and engaged with developers, academia and civil society organisations.

“Water and environment ministers from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam agreed to the strategy and other organisational rules and procedures during the 28th meeting hosted by [Thailand] in an online virtual setting,” the statement said.

Prawit Wongsuwon said the updated SHDS stresses the need to move basin development toward outcomes that can address long-term needs.

“The strategy represents a significant step forward in moving the basin toward optimal, safe and responsible outcomes that address interdependencies between environmental protection, water, food and hydropower production,” he said.

He said water infrastructure projects including hydropower dams have had a dramatic impact on the Mekong River systems over the last two decades. The approval of this development strategy will set the course for SHDS implementation as set out in the MRC Strategic Plan 2021–2025 to address emerging risks compounded by climate change.

The SHDS will also provide opportunities for the MRC to work with member countries on better data and information sharing and coordination of operation of hydropower projects.

Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology Lim Kean Hor – who also serves as chairman of the National Mekong Committee and represents the Kingdom on the MRC Council – led Cambodia’s delegation for the online meeting.

“MRC member countries are committed to working together to further strengthen regional cooperation, support the effective implementation of the 2021-2023 Basin Development Strategy and achieve successful sustainable management and development in the Mekong Basin,” the ministry said.