Mekong River Basin Hydropower
The estimated hydropower potential of the lower Mekong Basin (i.e. excluding China) is 30,000 MW, while that of the upper Mekong Basin is 28,930 MW. In the lower Mekong, more than 3,235 MW has been met through facilities built largely over the past ten years, while an additional 3,209 MW are currently under construction. An additional 134 projects are planned for the lower Mekong, which will effectively exhaust the river’s hydropower generating capacity. The single most significant impact – both now and in the future – on the use of water and its management in the Mekong Region is hydropower.
With development proceeding in the region’s countries, power demands are expected to rise 7% per year over the next 20 years, yielding a substantial – and potentially lucrative - energy market. Hydropower is a clear and favoured energy option for the Mekong’s riparian countries, as reflected in the narratives utilised to support these interventions. Laos is being portrayed as the ‘battery of Southeast Asia’. In China, hydropower is heralded as the best possible (‘clean green’) alternative to their coal-fired power stations, and will open the way to the development of the west. In Thailand, they emphasise the ‘greening of Isan’, the drought-prone northeast, to legitimise the development of a spectacular ‘water grid’ that will channel water from Laos, under the Mekong mainstream, and over-emphasising projected energy demands in the country. In Cambodia, hydropower is central to solving the country’s energy supply problems.
The development of the Mekong River Basin is highly controversial, and is one of the most prominent components in the discussion about the river and its management. This debate occurs in both the academic literature, as well as the media, and is a focus for many activist groups.
Existing hydropower infrastructure
Dams already constructed are presented below in Table 1:
Table 1: Commissioned dams in the Mekong River Basin (more than 10 MW)
Project Country River Approx Location Commissioned Installed capacity (MW) Height (m) Crest length (m) Active storage (million m3) Max reservoir area (km2) Dachaoshan CHN Mekong 2003 1,350 118 481 367 826 Gongguoqiao CHN Mekong 2008 750 130 120 343 Jinghong CHN Mekong 2010 1,750 118 249 510 Manwan CHN Mekong 1992 1,550 136 418 257 415 Houayho LAO Houayho/Xekong 1999 150 76.5 620 Nam Leuk LAO Nam Leuk/Nam Ngum 2000 60 45 800 185 Nam Lik 2 LAO Nam Lik 100 103 328 8.26 24.4 Nam Ngum 1 LAO Nam Ngum 1971 148.7 75 468 7,000 370 Nam Theun 2 LAO Nam Theun/Xe Bangfai 2010 1,075 48 325 3,680 450 Theun-Hinboun LAO Nam Theun/Nam Hinboun 1998 210 20 Xeset 1 LAO Xeset Saravan Province, Lao PDR 1994 45 0.5 Xeset 2 LAO Xeset Saravan Province, Lao PDR 2009 76 20 Buon Kuop VN Sre Pok 2009 280 37 Buon Tua Sra VN Se San/Kroong Po Ko 2009 86 Dray Hinh 1 VN Sre Pok Dak Lak Province, Viet Nam 1990 12 Dray Hinh 2 VN Sre Pok 2007 16 Plei Krong VN Se San/Kroong Po Ko 2008 100 65 745 162 80 Sesan 3 VN Sesan 2006 79 164 6.4 Sesan 3A VN Sesan 2007 96 Sesan 4 VN Sesan 2009 360 60 54 Sre Pok 3 VN Sre Pok 2009 220 52.5 Yali Falls VN Sesan 2001 720 65 1,460 1,037 64.5 Chulabhorn THL Nam Phrom 1972 40 70 700 188 31 Pak Mun THL Mun 1994 136 17 300 Sirindhorn THL Lam Dom Noi 1971 36 42 940 1967 288 Ubol Ratana THL Nam Pong 1966 25.2 35.1 885 2,263 410 Hua Na THL Huay Kaosan 1994 17 207 Lam Phra Phloeng THL Lam Phra Phloeng 1967 11 145 Lam Ta Khong THL Lam Ta Khong 2002 500 40.3 251 291 1,430
Hydropower infrastructure under construction
Hydropower infrastructure under construction in Cambodia
Hydropower infrastructure under construction in China
The Xiaowan Dam (simplified Chinese: 小湾坝; traditional Chinese: 小灣壩; pinyin: Xiǎowān Bà) is a large hydroelectric arch dam on the Lancang (Mekong) River in Yunnan Province, southwest China, which is currently under construction. Construction commenced in January 2002 and the river dammed in October, 2004. Construction is expected to be complete in 2013. The dam site is at located . When complete, it will be the world's highest arch dam and the second largest hydroelectric power station in China after the Three Gorges Dam. The dam will be 292 m (958 ft) high, a head of 248 m (814 ft), and a crest length of 920 m (3,018 ft). It will have an installed capacity of 3,600 MW, spread over six turbines. All turbines are currently operational. Mean annual energy production is 18,207 GWh. The dam reservoir has a maximum capacity of 14.56 km3 (5.14×1011 cu ft), and active storage 9.9 km3 (3.5×1011 cu ft). The reservoir will cover an area of more than 190 km2 (73 sq mi). The cost of the Xiaowan hydropower station is estimated at ¥32 billion (nearly US$3.9 billion). The project is being constructed, and will be operated, by Huaneng Power International.
Nuozhadu Dam (simplified Chinese: 糯扎渡大坝; traditional Chinese: 糯扎渡大壩; pinyin: Nuòzhādù Dàbà) is a central core rock fill dam, presently under construction at . It is sometime also known as the "Ruzhadu". The dam will be 261.5 m (858 ft) tall, the tallest dam of this type in China, and the third tallest in the world. It will create a reservoir with a normal capacity of 21,749,000,000 m3 (17,632,000 acre·ft) at a level of 812 m (2,664 ft) asl. It will be the largest hydropower dam in the Mekong River Basin. The purpose of the dam is hydroelectric power production along with flood control and navigation. The dam will support a power station with nine generators, each with generating capacity of 650 MW. The total generating capacity of the project is 5,850 MW. The construction and management of the project is being implemented by Huaneng Power International Ltd., which has a concession to build, own and operate hydroelectric dams on China's stretch of the Mekong River.
Hydropower infrastructure under construction in Lao PDR
Hydropower infrastructure under construction in Myanmar
Hydropower infrastructure under construction in Thailand
Hydropower infrastructure under construction in Vietnam
Planned hydropower infrastructure
Planned hydropower infrastructure in Cambodia
The Lower Se San 2 Dam is a proposed hydroelectric dam on the Se San River in the Stung Treng Province of Northeastern Cambodia. The dam site is at . The dam is planned to be a run-of-the-river facility. It will be 75 m (246 ft) high, and will create a reservoir that will cover 355 km2 (137 sq mi). It will have an installed capacity of 400MW with an average output of 1,998 GWh per year. Electricity will be routed to Vietnam, and then half of its generated output sold back to Cambodia. Construction is expected to commence in 2011, and completed in 2016. The dam will be located 25 km (16 mi) west of the confluence between the Sesan River and the Mekong. The dam will be developed by a joint venture between Electricity of Vietnam (51%) and a Cambodian firm, the Royal Group (49%).
A memorandum of understanding between Cambodia's Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy (MIME) and Electricity of Vietnam was signed in 2007 outlining and authorising an initial feasibility study, and an environmental impact assessment. In January 2011, the Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment licensed Electricity of Vietnam to make a US$800 million investment into the project.
The project's environmental impact assessment has drawn criticism from some groups. The dam's reservoir is expected to inundate numerous villages upstream from the dam. Up to 2,000 people will be displaced, with claims that at least 38,675 people, including a large number of indigenous peoples, resident in at least 86 villages located along the Sesan and Srepok Rivers and in the reservoir area would lose access to a considerable proportion fisheries resources as a consequence of the dam impeding fish migration routes
Prek Liang 1 Dam is a dam planned for the Prek Liang River, a tributary of the Mekong, in the Ratanakiri Province of Cambodia. The proposed dam site is at . It is understood to be a seasonal storage dam, and is intended to be 90 m (300 ft) high and 300 m (980 ft) long. It will have an installed capacity of 64MW and will generate 300GWh annually. Its reservoir will have a live storage capacity of 110,000,000 m3 (3.9×109 cu ft). The dam will be both developed and operated by a Korean company, KTC Cable.
The dam is based inside the Virachey National Park. The park is one of only two Cambodian ASEAN Heritage Parks  and is one of the top priority areas for conservation in Southeast Asia. The dam is under pre-feasibility study.
The Sambor Dam would be the lowest dam of the Mekong's mainstream dams, and largest in Cambodia. It is planned to be a concrete gravity dam and an earth rockfill dam. If commissioned, the dam will extend across the Mekong mainstream as well as the mouth of the inflowing Sre Pok, Sesan and Se Kong Rivers. The dam site is located near the village of Sambor, upstream of Kratie at , and would inundate the river channel to just south of Stung Treng town. It is being developed by the China Southern Power Grid Company at an estimated cost of US$4,947 million. Associated transmission lines would cost a further US$312.9 million. 70% of the power it generates is destined for Vietnam, while the balance is intended for domestic Cambodian markets. It would have an installed capacity of 2,600MW, and a dam over 18 km (11 mi) and 56 m (184 ft) high, with a rated head of 33 m (108 ft). If built, its reservoir would be 620 km2 (240 sq mi) with an active storage of 463 km3 (375,000,000 acre·ft). Construction and inundation will displace an estimated 19,034 people. The dam's earliest potential commissioning date is 2020.
Like other mainstream (and tributary) dams planned for the Mekong, the Sambor Dam has given rise to numerous social and environmental concerns. It is expected that the dam, together with the Stung Treng Dam (see below) will have significant negative impacts on the Mekong's fisheries, its hydrology and regional and national economies
Stung Battambang 1 Dam (also known as 'Battambang 1') is planned to be an earth core rockfill dam that will impound the Battambang River in Cambodia. The river is a major tributary of the Tonle Sap. The dam will be located east of Pailin District, in the Battambang Province of Cambodia. Of the two dams planned for this river, the larger is the Stung Battambang 1. It is planned to be 38 m (125 ft) high, to have an installed capacity of 24MW, and an annual electricity output of 120GW. A letter of commitment has been issued by the Cambodian authorities for a pre-feasibility study of the dam by an unknown Korean company
Surrounding the dam site is the Bannan Irrigation project, covering some 20,000 ha (77 sq mi), and the dam is understood to play a role in the irrigation of this area, as well as generating hydropower. There is little data available about reservoir size or number of people who will be displaced. The dam is one of three possible dams in the Stung Battambang basin; the other two would block two of the Battambang River's tributaries: the Mongkol Borey River and the Sangker River.
The Stung Treng Dam is a proposed earth core rockfill gravity dam hydroelectric project over the Mekong River in Stung Treng Province, Cambodia. If completed, the dam's crest will be 10,844 m (35,577 ft) long, and 22 m (72 ft) high. Its rated head is 15.2 m (50 ft). If commissioned, it will have an installed capacity of 980MW, and will, on average, generate 4,870GWh a year. The dam's reservoir, which will extend well beyond the mainstream canal, will have an active storage of 70,000,000 m3 (2.5×109 cu ft), and will inundate an area of 211 km2 (81 sq mi), and 50 km (31 mi) long The proposed dam site is located at . An MoU for its development had been signed with a Russian company, but when this lapsed, the Song Da company from Viet Nam agreed to carry out feasibility studies. At this stage it is not known where the power is destined for. Multiple independent agencies, including International Rivers, the Save the Mekong campaign (www.savethemekong.org) and others have all raised concerns about the dam’s construction. The dam site lies within the Stung Treng Ramsar Site (Ramsar site No. 999), which effectively obliges the Royal Cambodian Government to ‘actively support' the three 'pillars' of the Ramsar Convention: 1) ensuring the conservation and wise use of wetlands it has designated as Wetlands of International Importance, 2) including as far as possible the wise use of all wetlands in national environmental planning, and 3) consulting with other Parties about implementation of the Convention, especially in regard to transboundary wetlands, shared water systems, and shared species. If it and the Sambor Dam (see above) are constructed, it is expected that fish migration routes (which support the Tonle Sap fisheries, the world's largest inland fishery) will be more or less wholly impeded. The two proposed dams of the Sambor and the Stung Treng would have the Mekong river basin's highest sediment trapping efficiencies of all the Lower Mekong Basin's proposed mainstream projects, destabilising downstream channels and between Kratie and Phnom Penh and cutting overbank siltation in the Cambodian floodplain.
If built, an estimated 21 villages with 2,059 households and 10,617 people will be displaced with the construction of the dam. "Stung Treng and Sambor would create a situation of extreme crisis for the populations of affected provinces, and could provoke an emergency food security situation for the poor".
Planned hydropower infrastructure in China
The "Tuoba Hydropower Plant" is a planned concrete gravity dam, which will planned to be the fifth of China's 'cascade dams' on the Mekong (or Lancang) River. It will be located in Zhonglu Township, Weixi County, Diqing Prefecture, in China's Yunnan Province at . At the damsite, it will draw on a catchment are of 88,700 km2 (34,200 sq mi), and a mean annual discharge of 810m3/s. It will be 138 m (453 ft) high, with a total installed capacity of 900MW, a firm output of 375MW, and an annual output of 4630GWh.
Planned hydropower infrastructure in Lao PDR
Planned hydropower infrastructure in Myanmar
Planned hydropower infrastructure in Thailand
Planned hydropower infrastructure in Vietnam
Table 2: Proposed Dams on the Mekong Mainstream
Project Country Approx Location Commissioning Installed capacity (MW) Height (m) Crest length (m) Active storage (million m3) Max reservoir area (km2) Nuozhadu CHN 2016 5,850 261.5 608 21.749 320 Pak Beng Lao PDR 2016 1,230 76 943 442 87 Luang Prabang Lao PDR 2016 1,410 68 1,106 734 90 Xayaburi Lao PDR 2016 1,260 32 810 225 32 Pak Lay (Option 1) Lao PDR 2016 1,320 35 630 384 108 Pak Lay (Option 2) Lao PDR 2016 1,320 35 630 384 108 Sanakham Lao PDR 2016 700 38 1,144 106 81 Pakchom Lao PDR/Thailand 2017 1,079 1,200 55 12 74 Ban Koum Lao PDR/Thailand 2017 1,872 53 780 0 133 Lat Sua Lao PDR 2018 686 27 1,300 0 13 Don Sahong Lao PDR 2016 240 10.6 1,820 115 2.9 Stung Treng Cambodia 980 22 10,884 70 211 Sambor Cambodia 2020 2,600 56 18,002 465 620
- Mekong Delta
- Stung Sen River
- Se San River
- Tonle Sap
- Nam Ngum Dam
- International Rivers
- Mekong River Commission
- Yali Falls Dam
- Greater Mekong Sub-region Academic and Research Network
- GMS Environment Operations Center
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- King, P., Bird, J. and Haas, L. 2007. The current status of environmental criteria for hydropower development in the Mekong Region: a literature compilation. Vientiane, Lao PDR, WWF-Living Mekong Program.
- Krongkaew, M. 2004. The development of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS): real promise or false hope? Journal of Asian Economics 15 (2004): 977-998.
- Kummu, M., Keskinen, M. and Varis, O. (Eds), 2008. Modern Myths of the Mekong: A critical review of water and development concepts, principles and policies. Water and Development Publications – Helsinki University of Technology TKK-WD-01.
- Kummu, M., Lu, X.X., Wang, J.J. and Varis, O. 2010. Basin-wide sediment trapping efficiency of emerging reservoirs along the Mekong. Geomorphology 119 (2010): 181-197.
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- Kummu, M., Penny, D., Sarkkula, J. and Koponen, J. 2008. Sediment: a curse of blessing for Tonle Sap Lake? AMBIO 37 (3): 158-163.
- Lebel, L., Dore, J., Daniel, R. and Koma, Y.S. (eds) Democratizing Water Governance in the Mekong Region. Chiang Mai, Unit for Social and Environmental Research and Mekong Press.
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- Lu, X.X. and Siew, R.Y. 2006. Water discharge and sediment flux changes over the past decades in the Lower Mekong River: possible impacts of Chinese dams. Hydrol. Eart Syst. Sci. 10 (2006): 181-195.
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- Mekong River Commission, 2005. Overview of the Hydrology of the Mekong Basin. Vientiane, Lao PDR, MRC.
- Molle, F. and Floch, P. 2008. Mega projects and social and environmental changes: the case of the Thai ‘water grid’. AMBIO 37 (3): 199-204.
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- Rivers Watch, International Rivers Network and Friends of the Environment, Japan, 2003. Development disasters: Japanese-funded dam projects in Asia. A Publication of Rivers Watch East and Southeast Asia (RWESA), International Rivers Network and Friends of the Earth Japan.
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- 3S Rivers Protection Network
- Australian Mekong Resource Centre
- Cambodia National Mekong Committee
- Department of Energy Promotion and Development (EPD), Ministry of Energy and Mines (Lao PDR)
- Department of Water Resources (Thailand)
- Electricité du Laos
- Electricity Authority of Cambodia
- Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand
- Fisheries Action Coalition Team (Cambodia)
- GMS Academic and Research Network
- Greater Mekong Sub-region
- Greater Mekong Subregion Environment Operations Center
- Greater Mekong Sub-region Social Studies Center -
- International Rivers
- Lao National Mekong Committee
- Living River Siam
- Mekong Basin Research Network
- Mekong Environment and Resource Institute
- Mekong Institute
- Mekong Program on Water, Environment and Resilience
- Mekong River Commission
- Mekong Watch
- Mekong Wetlands Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Use Programme
- Nam Theun Hinboun Power Company
- Nam Theun 2
- Probe International
- Save the Mekong Campaign
- Stimson Institute Mekong Policy Project
- Sustainable Mekong Research Network (SUMERNET)
- Thailand National Mekong Committee
- Vietnam Electricity
- Vietnam National Mekong Committee
- WWF Greater Mekong Programme
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