Legal Plurality in Mekong Hydropower: Its Emergence and Policy Implications

  • Diana Suhardiman
  • Mark Giordano
Part of the Springer Water book series (SPWA)


The changing role of the state and the increased participation of non-state actors has blurred the meaning of international affairs and highlighted overlapping power structures at international, national, and local levels. This paper illustrates how these power structures shape the hydropower decision making landscape in one of the world’s most dynamic transboundary basins, the Mekong. Using the Lao PDR as a case study, we highlight how international donors’ influence in the overall shaping of national policy and legal frameworks, the state’s positioning of hydropower development as the main source of revenue, and the emerging importance of private sector actors manifested in overlapping rules and legal plurality in hydropower decision making. While legal plurality reflects the inherently contested terrain of hydropower, it also highlights the importance of power geometries and the scale dynamics in hydropower governance. The growing role of non-state actors may be interpreted as a reduction in state decision making power, but it may also be seen as a means for the state to take advantage of competing interests, in this case receiving both donor funding and private capital. If international donors expect national government agencies to promote meaningful application of internationally defined socio-environmental safeguards, they need to create space for critical discussion and move beyond the current standardized approach in promoting sustainable hydropower development.


Scale dynamics Hydropower development State laws Natural resource management Mekong 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Water Management Institute, Southeast Asia Regional OfficeVientianeLao PDR
  2. 2.Edmund a. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA

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