IFC backs more sustainable hydropower development
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is seeking consultations with its development partners from public and private sectors, and the international development community to make Laos’ hydropower sector more sustainable.
This is because the country’s socio economic development and steady growth of the Lao economy is heavily dependent on revenue collection from the energy sector, especially hydroelectricity.
Last week, IFC’s partners from the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) alongside private sector representatives and members from the international development community joined to discuss progress made in environmental and social sustainability in Laos’ hydropower sector over the past five years.
IFC’s Environmental and Social Hydro Advisory Ms Kate Lazarus told Vientiane Times on Thursday that IFC’s environmental and social hydro advisory programme started in 2012 and is now ending its first phase in the Lao PDR.
“The programme will continue in Laos, but will focus specifically on private sector uptake of policy and regulation developed by the government of Laos over the past five years.”
At a cocktail evening on Wednesday, speakers shared their lessons learned and experiences related to advancing sustainability in the power sector.
The programme has been funded by the Australian and Japanese governments and the event was closed by the acting Australian Ambassador. Friends, partners and clients came to listen to stories of sustainability and to discuss the next steps to raise environmental and social standards in Laos’ power sector.
“Additionally, we launched Laos’ first Nam Ou River Basin Profile. This research with MONRE spanned over 4 years and included intensive capacity building with government officials.”
The profile will provide private sector and government with information on the importance of the river basin with the aim to improve planning in the long-term.
Ms Lazarus said “Our work has been over the past 5 years to help the government develop policy, guidelines and regulations to enable more sustainable business operations.”
She reiterated that progress has been made, particularly in the recognition of the importance of the water and energy ministries collaborating, but there’s still work to do. “Now it’s time for companies to uptake the policy and regulations developed and for the government to work on implementation,” she noted.
Ms Lazarus informed that the private sector has a role to play in this process. For example, through the Hydropower Developers’ Working Group hydropower companies have been able to contribute their technical expertise and experience to policy.
She assured that IFC will continue to support the Hydropower Developers’ Working Group in Laos, Myanmar and Pakistan.
“This is one way that we partner with hydropower developers that are interested in raising their environmental and social standards.”
“Additionally, we provide trainings and advice to companies on how to improve their management systems and how to lower their environmental and social risks, and also continue to develop knowledge on the cumulative impacts of development in river basins where more than one project is planned,” Ms Lazarus added.
Meanwhile, Head of Office of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, Dr Daovong Phonekeo, told the gathering that Laos is rich in natural resources, especially water that is the source for hydropower development.
“Hydropower development plays a significant role in the country’s socio -economic development as well as alleviating poverty; therefore the development of hydropower in Laos is already set in plans,” he said.
He said the sustainability of hydropower development is a priority for the Lao government and that international cooperation and collaboration is indeed necessary.
“We look forward to advancing cooperation with members of the World Bank Group – IFC on sustainable development of hydropower in Laos,” Dr Daovong said.