VIENTIANE, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- Laos is taking steps to convince neighboring countries of the merits of the planned Don Sahong hydropower project over Mekong River.
Lao government officials organized a site visit on Sunday and Monday so that interested parties could see the site first-hand and get a sense of the natural and social environment of the project area in the far south of Champassak province, some 700 km south of Lao capital Vientiane.
The site visit was arranged after the Lao government notified neighboring countries through the intergovernmental Mekong River Commission (MRC) of its decision to proceed with development of the 260 MW run-of-river dam, Lao state-run Vientiane Times online reported on Sunday.
More than 100 people are visiting the site of the 723.1 million U.S. dollars project. Plans call for the group to travel by boat to the dam site and walk along the channels through the Siphandone area where the Mekong River flows into Cambodia.
The visit was organized by Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines together with the Lao National Mekong Committee and the project developer, Malaysia's Mega First Corporation Berhad (MFCB).
Delegations from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and representatives from MRC development partners, non-governmental organizations ( NGOs), independent organizations and regional media outlets were invited to take part.
The site visit aims to demonstrate that the dam will not be built on the Mekong mainstream, and that Laos is complying with the 1995 Mekong Agreement on sustainable development. The aim of the visit is to provide accurate information regarding Laos' decision to develop the project and to gather feedback, said the report.
The main concerns of neighboring countries are fish passage and migration through the area. Senior Environmental Manager of the Don Sahong Hydropower Project, Peter Hawkins, said once the dam is built, fish will be able to use several other channels for upstream and downstream migration.
Some foreign media and environmental activists said Laos is in violation of the 1995 Mekong Agreement as it failed to conduct prior consultation with downstream neighbors before giving the project the go-ahead. Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines, Viraphonh Viravong, said Laos did not breach the 1995 agreement because it does not regard Hou Sahong as part of the Mekong mainstream.
The mainstream of the Mekong could be considered Khonphapheng and Lipi because the water flow through Lipi represents 60 percent of the total river flow, while the flow through Khonphapheng accounts for 30 percent.
Viraphonh said Laos did not regard the dam as being on the Mekong mainstream, which would require prior consultation.
The Don Sahong Project is located in the Khong District of Champasak Province in Laos and situated on the five-kilometer-long Hou Sahong, one of the braided channels of the Mekong River approximately two kilometers upstream of the Lao-Cambodian border.