Mekong Utility Watch

Hydro dam will destroy Laotian fishery but companies and aid agencies won’t be held responsible for damage, says report

Probe International Mekong Press Backgrounder #2

Lao PDR
August 21, 1996

Hydro dam will destroy Laotian fishery but companies and aid agencies won’t be held responsible for damage, says report.

The Nam Theun-Hinboun hydropower project in Laos will affect thousands of people and destroy their fisheries but the project’s builders will not be held responsible for the damage, according to a report released by Norplan, a Norwegian engineering firm. In addition, for those who will be flooded off their land because of the dam, the report claims “rebuilding houses is part of village tradition and easily managed by the villagers themselves.” The dam will affect 25 villages with a population of 6,000 people.

The report was commissioned by the Norwegian aid agency, NORAD, which is jointly financing the dam with the Asian Development Bank. Construction of Nam Theun-Hinboun, meanwhile, started in 1994. All along, the ADB has maintained that Nam Theun-Hinboun is a “model” dam.

The consultants’ report estimates that local fisheries upon which every family depends for food and income will decline because the dam will block migrations and reduce the flow in the Nam Theun river to a trickle. Fish catches are expected to decrease by 50% in areas upstream of the dam and “[a]s the first project in a virgin river, the Theun-Hinboun Project risks becoming a major factor in reduction in fish biodiversity,” according to Norplan’s report. To mitigate the dam’s problems, the consultants suggest a “fish pass” to allow migrating fish to swim around the dam  something that was tried with Thailand’s Pak Mun dam and failed. The dam’s builders, in any case, are not obligated to implement the consultants’ recommendations, and are not responsible for paying compensation to people whose livelihoods will be adversely affected by the dam.

Nam Theun-Hinboun is a 210-megawatt dam on the Nam Theun river that is being built by a consortium including Electricité du Laos, MDX of Thailand, and Nordic Hydropower. The consultants’ report, Impact Studies for the Theun-Hinboun Hydropower Project, Laos, was completed by Norplan A.S. of Oslo, Norway, in May, 1996.

Categories: Mekong Utility Watch

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