The Nam Theun 2 hydropower project in central Laos, touted by the World Bank and others as a “model” dam and development project, is in danger of becoming yet another failed effort, according to a report released recently by the International Rivers Network. The report shows that as Nam Theun’s 2 construction hits halfway point, the dam’s social and environmental programs are critically lagging behind.
Shannon Lawrence, Lao Program Director at the International Rivers Network (IRN), which is based in California, said in an interview with VOA on May 30, 2007, that the failures were reflected in three impact areas: the resettlement of some 6,200 villagers from the area which will become the reservoir on the Nakai Plateau is behind schedule, with most people still living in temporary housing; compensation for the villagers who have lost their land and resources as a result of project construction is inadequate. As of March of this year, some villagers still have not received any compensation yet; some did receive some money but felt it’s not enough. The third failure is in the pilot program to mitigate NT2’s impact on tens of thousands of villagers who live downstream of the dam, especially along Sebangfai River. The program which was initiated last year is being implemented on only 20 of the more than 200 villages that will be affected.
“Prior to project approval, IRN warned that livelihood restoration plans were unworkable,” said Lawrence, “These warnings have come true and the company is now trying to rewrite plans mid-stream. If the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank want to avoid another dam disaster, they must ensure that interim compensation schemes are developed, guarantee that sufficient funding is available to compensate all villagers, and release all relevant documents.”
Nam Theun 2 which will cost more than $1.2 billion, is the biggest dam being built in Laos and is supported with loans, grants and guarantees from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Investment Bank and other public and private funders.
The Nam Theun 2 hydropower project, due to finish in late 2009, will export more than 90% of its 1,070 MW of electricity to Thailand. Lao officials have said that income from the sale of electricity will be used toward poverty reduction efforts.
Listen to our report for more details.