Apparently undeterred by Southeast Asia’s economic meltdown, preliminary studies for new hydro projects in the Great Mekong Sub-region (GMS), but mostly in the Lao PDR, continue to be launched.

Leading the pack, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is contemplating a pre- feasibility study for Nam Ngum 4A.

In addition to site investigations, this US$800,000 study would develop preliminary project design, assess economic and financial viability, and prepare an initial environmental assessment. Consultants have yet to be recruited.

Not to be outdone, Australian consulting engineers Melkyma has recently proposed Nam Ngum5, even though PPAs with Thailand for Nam Ngum2 and 3 have still not been finalised and the projects themselves have been postponed.

Meanwhile, ADB has also hired UK consulting engineers Halcrow-Fox to identify the six best remaining hydro power sites out of 20 in the Nam Theun, Se San and Se Kong basins, the last two of which also extend into Vietnam and Cambodia.

It has been specified that the six new sites must not be subject to existing MoUs.