Three multilateral agencies have launched an innovative assessment tool that helps identify the most sustainable sites, designs and operation rules for hydro-power development in the lower Mekong River Basin.
The Rapid Basin-wide Hydropower Sustainable Development Tool (RSAT), unveiled by the Asian Development Bank, Mekong River Commission (MRC), and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in HCM City on Wednesday, “allows for hydro-power projects to be assessed in a basin-wide context rather than on a case-by-case basis,” Marc Goichot, senior infrastructure advisor for the WWF Greater Mekong Programme, said.
It uses existing social, environmental, cultural, economic and financial information about a river basin to make the assessment.
“Sustainable hydro-power requires that decisions about its development and management are placed in a river-basin perspective,” Jeremy Bird, chief executive officer of the MRC Secretariat, said.
“This involves a shift in thinking about water infrastructure as a wider development intervention, with more attention to the overall development effectiveness of projects beyond viewing infrastructure narrowly as a way to meet growing needs for water and energy services.”
The RSAT seeks to enhance existing tools and processes such as Environmental Impact Assessments and Management Plans instead of replacing them, and works by bringing together different sectors and institutions.
It can be used as a checklist for preliminary assessments, a framework for risk assessment, to facilitate dialogue among different groups and identify capacity-building needs, for training and for skills development.
It complements and builds on a similar project-based tool developed by a multi-stakeholder initiative, the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum, and which focuses on the planning, design and operation stages of individual projects.
Germany, Finland and the US are providing financial support for the initiative.
There are more than 100 hydro-power projects planned in the lower Mekong River Basin in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam.