The Mekong Project on ‘Knowledge and Institutional Systems in the Management and Coordination of Hydropower Social Safeguards: Hydropower Development in Attapeu Province, Lao PDR’ (MK10) aimed to strengthen knowledge, communications and institutional systems in social safeguard aspects of regional hydropower development. The project strategy was to combine research, workshops and the development of a manual about the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP) and Lao and international guidelines to assist in the coordination of knowledge and good practice in hydropower social safeguards.
This project addressed a clear development need: the Lao Government’s desire to develop the hydropower potential of Attapeu Province, and to take advantage of Vietnamese energy markets. However, in order to gain the ADB’s approval to proceed, social and environmental safeguards need to be improved. Insofar as changes in knowledge are concerned, the project considered what tools to use in order to obtain the ADB’s agreement, and focused on HSAP as a key tool by which this could be achieved. The project also considered the ways in which these hydropower and transmission line developments can help to improve the livelihoods of indigenous people through the application of these tools. HSAP is a complex instrument, and requires great skill to use and implement, and it is through the development of these skills amongst the project’s target groups that the project hoped change would emerge. These changes would also suggest changes to the attitudes of the project’s target groups: hydropower and electricity planners, developers and managers need to be thinking about how to make the most of these very significant investments; how their negative impacts can be minimized, and their positive benefits maximized.
MK10 is led by the Faculty of Social Science, National University of Laos (NUOL), working in partnership with the Technical Department of the Environmental Office, Electricité du Laos (EdL), the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE – Lao PDR), and the Faculty of Environmental Science, Vietnam National University for Science and Technology (VNUST).
Damdouane Khouangvichit (damdouanek[at]yahoo.com)