Guidelines aim to make hydro on the Mekong more sustainable

13 April 2016

New guidelines have been drawn up that may help to make future hydropower projects in the Mekong region (Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam) more sustainable, while also acting as a reference work for best practice on environmental mitigation measures for projects worldwide.

Consulting engineering firm Multiconsult, in collaboration with Deltares (Netherlands) and BOKU University (Austria) has drawn up the first draft of the guidelines in a project named Hydropower Environmental Impact Mitigation on the Mekong Mainstream and Tributaries. The guidelines and manual can be found on the Mekong River Commission's website.

A multidisciplinary team consisting of 20 experts from Norway, the UK, the Netherlands, Austria and Australia has been working on the study.

The first draft of the guidelines and manual mark the end of the first two phases of the study, which started in January 2015. It is due for completion in July 2017, after the end of phase four.

"We are now in phase 3, which will run until the end of 2016, and consists of a pilot study to test the guidelines and proposed mitigation measures on five planned dams on the Mekong mainstream north of Vientiane in Laos," explained Leif Birger Lillehammer, the Team Leader for the study. "One of these is the Xayaburi hydropower plant, which is under construction, and incorporates an advanced fish passage system."

Testing will consist of advanced, integrated hydrological, hydraulic, sedimentation, water balance and hydropower modelling. The aim is to assess environmental mitigation measures and to find the best ones when evaluated against and integrated with the best technological and financial solutions.

The preliminary results of the study, including the guidelines and manual, as well as a description of the remaining work, were presented at a recent conference held in Laos, and the Multiconsult and Deltares have now been invitied to present the study to the World Bank in Autumn 2016, Lillehammer said.

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