Balancing River Health and Hydropower Requirements in the Lancang River Basin
Led By: Ecofish Research Ltd (Canada)
Project Leader: Yu Xuezhong -
Partner Organizations:
  • Asian International Rivers Center (AIRC), Yunnan University, China
  • Faculty of Agriculture (FOA), National University of Laos
Project Brief:
Hydropower development is the primary driving force of river health in the Lancang River Basin and also affects the provision of ecosystem services by the Mekong River. But hydropower developers are short of knowledge on how hydropower projects in general impact river health, and how best to mitigate and compensate for these impacts at basin level. Meanwhile, institutions and communities in downstream countries do not have adequate information and opportunity to understand transboundary environmental effects of hydropower projects on the Lancang River.

With a vision of integrating both ecological and social values, this project will assess river health of the Lancang River Basin with respect to the impacts of hydropower projects. A multi-scale state and impact assessment (MSIA) framework will be developed and applied to evaluate river health and the relationship between hydropower and river health. We will study key transboundary effects components including hydrology, sediment transport, water temperature, fish communities, flood, drought, and navigation. Based on the evaluation and comparison with international best practices, the environmental mitigation and compensation measures of hydropower projects will be studied at a basin level to fill existing knowledge gaps in the Lancang River Basin. Our project will also study the specific needs of women, and impacts on women’s lives and livelihoods, and factors that influence women’s participation in river health management. The experience and lessons of environmental protection of hydropower development in the Lancang River Basin will be shared with hydropower developers and regulators in Laos.

This project will actively promote effective communications for broader stakeholder engagement, supported by the scientific evidence it produces. Key stakeholders, including government agencies, hydropower developers, civil society, and NGOs will be involved in the consultation and communication. Thus, awareness, knowledge, involvement, communication and practice of stakeholders can be enhanced regarding environmental effects of hydropower projects in the Lancang River Basin.

There are six categories of research output for this project: (1) Models and programs of river health assessment and impact evaluation, (2) Technical reports on river health assessment, transboundary effects, monitoring plans, gender survey and analysis, etc.,(3) Publications (SoKs, conference/journal paper, contribution to WLE Greater Mekong edited volume), (4) media (newspaper articles, blog post/webstories), (5) Graduate theses/dissertations, and (6) Workshops and minutes of workshops.

With the support of research and communication activities, this project is expected to achieve five outcomes: (1) Improve knowledge, skills and practice of HydroLancang, (2) Strengthen dialog and communication on transboundary effects of hydropower projects on Lancang River, (3) Enhance awareness and involvement of women in river health assessment and management, (4) Improve knowledge and skills of environmental protection of hydropower developers and regulators in Laos, (5) Improve knowledge and skills of students in the AIRC.

1. Project Activities

1.1 Inception Workshop of MK22

The inception workshop of the project MK22 was held on May 26th in Yunnan University, Kunming, China. With more than 20 participants from China, Laos, Cambodia, and Norway attended the workshop (participants are listed in Appendix A). The participants came mainly from hydropower developer and regulatory agency, NGOs, and research institute in China. Researchers from Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute (IFReDI) of Cambodia and University of OSLO were also invited to attend the workshop. Network and project coordinators of the WLE Mekong participated in the workshop as the representatives of the project sponsor. The meeting was designed to be open and interactive in nature to provide opportunity for deliberation on key issues related to project outcome, output, and implementation plan.

Inception workshop report:

Presentations of the Inception Workshop on May 26 in Kunming, China

Inception workshop pictures:

1.2 Field trip and workshops on river health and hydropower in Yunnan, Oct 27-29 2015, China

MK22 organized the field trip and two workshops on river health and hydropower development from 27-29 October 2015 in the Lancang River basin, China. It is among a number of R4D (research for development) activities of the WLE Mekong project “Balancing River Health and Hydropower Requirements in the Lancang River Basin”. This event was hosted by the Asian International Rivers Centers of Yunnan University, China.
Nearly 30 specialists from China, Canada, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand participated in this event for a period of 3 days. The participants visited the Jinghong Hydropower Project, Nanla River and Buyuan River (two tributaries for fish migration from Mekong River), and the Fish Hatchery Center of Xishuangbanna Autonomous Prefecture. Additionally, two workshops were held for the discussion on “Hydropower Development, Fish Conservation and Sustainable Use of Fishery Resources on the Lancang River”.
This event created an opportunity for direct dialog and communication among multiple stakeholders including hydropower developer, researchers, international NGOs, and government. Representative from HydroLancang introduced environmental efforts to avoid, mitigate, and compensate adverse impacts of hydroelectric project on the Lancang River. HydroLancang also respond to the questions that downstream representatives raised for hydropower projects on the Lancang River. Researchers from the Asian International Rivers Centers of Yunnan University introduced their latest study on environmental effects of hydropower projects on the Lancang River. Environmental scientists from The Nature Conservancy and Ecofish Research Ltd shared international good practices on maintaining river health in hydropower development and briefed the implications to Lancang River.

Field trip and workshops agenda

Presentations at workshop 1 on Oct 27, 2015 - Background and introduction

Presentations at workshop 2 on Oct 29, 2015 - International practices and wrap-up


1.3 Gender survey and study in the areas affected by the Manwan Hydropower Project

From Sep 9-15 2015, the project team conducted the investigation of the impacts of hydropower project on women's livelihood in the areas affected by the Manwan Hydropower Projects. Household interviews were conducted in 8 representative communities affected by Manwan. The survey mainly covers the familay structure, age, education, livelihood sources, and the impacts of hydropower on livelihood.



1.4 Mid-term Consultation Meeting, Oct 31 2016, China

The MK22 project organized the mid-term consultation meeting on Oct 31 2016 in Kunming. Representatives of key stakeholders and target groups of the project, including Huaneng Hydro Lancang Corporation, China Renewable Energy Engineering Institute, TNC China, WWF China, Yunnan Social Institute, and Yunnan University, were invited to the meeting.

The project team presented the mid-term results of the project including river health and hydropower impacts assessment, environmental transboundary effects of hydropower projects, and gender impacts and involvement in river health management in the Lancang River Basin. The participants commented on the mid-term report and recommended potential improvement for the project study and activities.




Mid-term report in Oct 2016

Meeting minute

Presentations at the consultation meeting

1.5 Experience sharing workshop for environmental protection of hydropower development between China and Laos, Nov 3-4, Xayaburi, Laos

On Nov 3-4, the MK22 project trained environmental mitigation of hydropower projects for resources management agencies and hydropower developers in Xayaburi, Laos. 17 participants from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Living Aquatic Resources Research Center, Agriculture and Forestry Office of Phongsaly, LuangPhabang, Xayaburi, and Vientiane Province, Office of Natural Resources and Environmental of Phongsaly, LuangPhabang, and Xayaburi Province, Office of Energy and Mine of Xayaburi Province, Lao National Mekong Committee, National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute , Nam Mang 3 Hydropower, and Nam Gneip Hydropower attended the training workshop and field trip to the Xayaburi dam.

Dr. Xuezhong Yu, Senior Environmental Specialist at Ecofish presented environmental impacts and mitigation options of hydropower, environmental mitigation efforts and effectiveness of hydropower projects on the Lancang River, international good practices on the Columbia River. Dr. Yu indicated that many negative impacts of hydroelectric project can be prevented, mitigated, or compensated if the environmental options are implemented properly. The fish biologist at the National University of Laos, partner of Ecofish, presented hydropower impacts on fisheries and mitigation in Laos. Dr. Ronghua Zhong at the University shared the research experience and results on environmental transboundary effects of hydropower projects on the Lancang River.

After the training seminar, the participants visited the Xayaburi dam which is the first dam on the mainstream of Lower Mekong River. The total installed capacity of the project is 1,285 MW, with a total annual energy production of 7,406 GWh. The commercial operation is scheduled to start in 2019.

Report of the training workshop in Laos

Presentations at the workshop in Xayaburi, Laos

1.6 Consultation workshop and field trip of hydropower projects, Oct 19-20 2017, Yunnan

The consultation workshop was organized at the Asian International Rivers Center, Yunnan University on Oct 19 2017. The MK22 team presented the research outputs on river health and hydropower to specialists in the Greater Mekong region. Twenty specialists in governmental, inter-government, academic, non-government, and engineering organizations/institutions from China, Laos, and Myanmar participated in the consultation workshop and field trip in Yunnan Province, China. As the project lead, Dr. Xuezhong Yu presented the methodologies, results, recommendations, and project activities relevant on river health assessment of the Lancang River and the impacts of hydropower projects on river health. The project partners from China and Laos presented the research works on transboundary environmental effects of hydropower on the Lancang River and experience sharing between China and Laos on environmental management of hydropower.

Field trip to Gongguoqiao Dam, Miaowei Dam, and dam removal on the Jidu River


2. Publications
Water Resources Collaboration: Potential Flagship in Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Mechanism

Transboundary Hydropower Operation Calls for Long-term Mechanism in the Lancang-Mekong River Basin

Experience and implications of international green hydropower certification, China Water Power & Electrification, 2015 (7): 13-15.

Comparative Analysis of Hydrologic Methods of Environmental Flows with a Perspective of River Health, Chinese National Committee on Large Dams Annual Conference 2016, Xi'an China, 2016

Impacts Assessment of Run-of-River Hydropower Projects on Fish Community in Canada, Small Hydropower, 2016(4): 5-8.

International Practices and Implications of Integrated Watershed Management of Fish Conservation of Hydropower Development, Water Power, 2016, 42(4): 5-9.

3. Multimedia

MK22 project team monitored water temperature at Xiaowan Dam on the Lancang River

MK22 project team at the 2017 Greater Mekong Forum in Yangon, Myanmar

4. Development Events

4.1 Session at the 2015 Greater Mekong Forum

Session 3 at the 2015 Greater Mekong Forum (Phnom Penh, Oct 21 2015): Conserving Fish amid Developing Hydropower

4.2 Session at the 2016 Greater Mekong Forum

MK22 hosted the Session 7 at the 2016 Greater Mekong Forum (Bangkok, Nov 9, 2016): Lancang-Mekong Collaboration Mechanism: Opportunities and Challenges for Transboundary Water Governance in the Mekong Region

4.3 Sustainable Hydropower Practice Forum #4 - Dialogue with Hydropower Developers

Dr. Xuezhong Yu participated and presented at the Sustainable Hydropower Practice Forum #4 on 10-11 August 2017, Vientiane, Lao PDR

4.4 Session at the 2017 Greater Mekong Forum

MK22 project hosted the Session 6 "River Health and Hydropower in the Lancang River Basin" at the 2017 Greater Mekong Forum on Oct 25 in Yangon, Myanmar


5. Graduate students training