Germany supplies equipment to monitor impacts of Laos’s Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams on Mekong River

Construction News Laos
The Xayaburi dam in the lower Mekong River in Laos. Photo by CK Power/Handout via AFP.

Germany supplies equipment to monitor impacts of Laos’s Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams on Mekong River

Germany has provided equipment to the Mekong River Commission to monitor the environmental impacts of two mainstream dams on the lower reaches of the Mekong River.

The equipment, worth around $600,000, meant to help monitor the impacts of Laos’s Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams, was handed over on Tuesday as part of the German government’s support for the MRC’s Joint Environment Monitoring of Mekong Mainstream Hydropower Projects (JEM) program, which is now in the pilot stage.

It includes sediment and discharge monitoring tools, microscopes, water quality loggers, algae torches, a boat, fish tags and traps, and GPS devices.

The equipment would be installed at three locations or more in each dam to collect data on hydrology and hydraulics, sediment, water quality, aquatic ecology, and fish and fisheries, the MRC said in a statement.

“While Germany acknowledges that hydropower development can offer high potential for economic growth, it also poses great challenges in terms of adverse transboundary impacts on the environment and people’s socioeconomic well-being,” German ambassador to Laos, Jens Lütkenherm, said at the handover ceremony in Vientiane.

Germany supports the MRC in monitoring the impacts of the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams and hopes to advise the governments of its four member countries, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, on measures to reduce the adverse effects, he added.

Xayaburi and Don Sahong are the first two dams built on the lower Mekong in Laos.

The former was built by Ch. Karnchang PCL, one of Thailand’s largest construction companies, in 2010. The 1,285-megawatt dam, 150 km downstream of the country’s capital, Luang Prabang, began commercial operation last October.

Don Sahong Dam, with a capacity of 260 MW, started operating last January. Malaysia’s Mega First company owns 80 percent of it and Laos’s EDL-GEN public power company, the rest.

The Mekong flows 4,880 km from its origins in Tibet through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam before reaching the sea. The lower Mekong in Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, is home to an extremely rich inland fisheries ecosystem comprising hundreds of species.

But experts have blamed upstream dams for obstructing water flow, adversely affecting the ecosystem downstream.