Mekong Utility Watch

The Political Ecology of Hydropower Development in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Grainne Ryder
York University, North York, Ontario, Canada
December 13, 1996

Table of Contents | Abstract | Maps
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8

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The Political Ecology of Hydropower Development in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Gráinne Ryder
December 13, 1996

A Major Paper

submitted to the Faculty of Environmental Studies
in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of

Master in Environmental Studies
York University, North York, Ontario, Canada

@Gráinne Ryder


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Table of Contents

Abstract

Maps

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Resource Rights

Chapter 3: Hydropower Development

Chapter 4: Assessing Social and Environmental Impacts

Chapter 5: ‘Test Case for Sustainable Development’: World Bank’s Case for the Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project

Chapter 6: Common Ground: The Global Conservationists’ Case the Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project

Chapter 7: The Rise and Fall of EGAT: From Monopoly to Marketplace?

Chapter 8: Conclusions & Recommendations


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Abstract

The Lao PDR government has pinned its national economic future on hydroelectricity export earnings and has joined with international consortia, made up of private companies and state-owned utilities, to develop large-scale hydropower projects along every major river in the country. The pace of implementation and financing of hydropower development, however, has been slower than expected for a number of reasons. The first factor is the policy shift within international agencies away from aid-financed projects to the promotion of hydropower development with private sector participation thereby complicating financing arrangements. The second factor is the increased public pressure on hydropower proponents to account for the social and environmental costs of hydropower development which, in turn, has delayed project planning and increased project costs. And finally, the third factor is competition from cheaper, independent power producers in Thailand which threatens to undermine Thailand’s commitment to hydroelectricity imports from Lao PDR.

The hydropower development agenda has nevertheless been strengthened by global conservation organizations in Lao PDR which advocate greater state control over watersheds in the name of global biodiversity conservation and the allocation of a portion of hydropower revenues for protected area management. Highland communities in Lao PDR are particularly threatened by this global alliance because most do not have state-sanctioned rights to the resources upon which they depend. Hydropower developers are, therefore, under no obligation to respect customary claims to resources, seek local consent, or negotiate fair compensation for damages to resources and livelihoods.

There are, however, ambiguities in state policies governing resource access and use, and a demonstrated flexibility on the part of the Lao PDR government in negotiating local claims, which suggest that opportunities exist to promote state recognition and negotiation of local claims to resources prior to negotiations with hydropower developers.


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Mekong Region Maps

Map 1 Map 2 map
Location of the Mekong Basin Lower Mekong Basin, Major Topographical Divisions Location of Mekong Scheme Dam Projects

Map References

Map 1: Location of the Mekong Basin

Pantulu, V.R. (1986) “The Mekong River System” in Davies, B.R. and Walker, K.F. (eds) (1986) The Ecology of River Systems, Dr. W. Junk Publishers, Dodrecht, The Netherlands, pp. 695-719.

Map 2: Lower Mekong Basin, Major Topographical Divisions

Interim Mekong Committee (1988) Perspectives for Mekong Development: Revised Indicative Basin Plan (1987) for the Lower Mekong Basin, Committee Report, Bangkok, April 1988.

Map 3: Location of Mekong Scheme Dam Projects

Interim Mekong Committee (1988) Perspectives for Mekong Development: Revised Indicative Basin Plan (1987) for the Lower Mekong Basin, Committee Report, Bangkok, April 1988.


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Table of Contents | Abstract | Maps
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8

Categories: Mekong Utility Watch

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