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Rice-planting time in the great Mekong flood plain.

Strategic Environmental Assessment

The proposal to install 12 hydropower dams along the lower mainstream of the Mekong River brings with it huge uncertainties for the 60 million people who rely on the river for their livelihoods and survival.

The Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), in consultation with regional government agencies, donors and community organisations, was commissioned by the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to ensure that decisions regarding the proposed dams were made with full knowledge of potential costs and benefits on regional development.

The SEA details the impact of mainstream dams on communities reliant on the Mekong River. Unlike Environmental Impact Assessments, which look at each dam’s individual impacts, the SEA addresses the cumulative effects of 12 hydropower mainstream dams. The SEA provides a clear recommendation that all decisions on mainstream dams be deferred for a period of 10 years.

Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement

Under the Mekong River Commission all development proposals must undergo the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) process, and aim to arrive at a unified agreement before any action is taken.  Each dam is considered individually under the PNPCA, which is also meant to assess the findings of the SEA report as part of the decision-making process. Concerns exist, however, that the PNPCA is a rubber-stamp process, in which the SEA is not taken into account.

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