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Villagers protest Nam Theun 2 dam project

Kultida Samabuddhi
Bangkok Post
March 15, 2005

An independent energy analyst claims electricity from Nam Theun 2 would be 14% more expensive than that produced from alternative, renewable energy sources.About 100 dam-affected villagers and international green groups yesterday rallied in front of the World Bank’s Bangkok office yesterday, demanding the bank postpone its decision to finance the US$1.3 billion (43 billion baht) Nam Theun 2 hydro-electric power
project in Laos.

The bank is expected to conclude on the long-delayed project at the end of this month, after completing a series of public consultations in Bangkok, Tokyo, Paris and Washington late last year.

The villagers said they have endured disastrous ecological and social impacts from the World Bank-funded Pak Moon dam in Ubon Ratchathani and the Lam Takhong power plant project in Nakhon Ratchasima, and that they did not want Lao people to suffer similar anguish.

The villagers also burned an effigy of World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn to condemn what they said was the bank’s unwavering support of destructive projects and irresponsibility over their adverse impacts.

“The bank has completely destroyed the Pak Moon and Lam Takhong rivers and [then] avoided the problems it created,” Somkiat Ponpai, a Pak Moon villager told a representative from the World Bank. “We can not let you ruin local communities and rivers elsewhere.”

Yesterday’s demonstration coincided with the the International Day Against Dams and was seen as a prelude to the Assembly of the Poor’s three-day rally in front of parliament, due to start today.

The 1,070-megawatt dam project was developed by Nam Theun II Power Co. Ltd. (NTPC), an international consortium comprising Electricite de France, which has a 35% stake, Laos Electricity (25%), Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand’s (Egat) subsidiary EGCO (25%) and Italian-Thai Development (15%).

Thailand is to be the sole purchaser of 995 megawatts of electricity from Nam Theun 2, the remaining 75 megawatts of which will serve domestic Lao demand.

Egat will also need to construct a seven-billion-baht electric cable from the Thai-Laotian border in Mukdahan province to a power station at Roi Et.

Environmentalists have protested against the project for almost a decade, saying it was not economically viable and would cause ecological and social damage.

Premruedee Daoruang, director of Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance (Terra) said the dam would flood about 300,000 rai of the Nakai Plateau-Nam Theun watershed, Southeast Asia’s finest tropical rain forest.

Several hundred endangered wildlife species would die out as a consequence because of habitat loss, he said. The dam would also displace 7,000 people.

Supakit Nuntaworakarn, an independent energy analyst, said electricity from Nam Theun 2 would be 14% more expensive than that produced from alternative, renewable energy sources.

He charged Egat with having exaggerated its electricity demand growth forecasts for the country, saying this had led to excessive power plant construction.

The World Bank’s environment sector chief in Bangkok, Patchamuthu Illangovan, meanwhile, admitted previous projects financed by the bank had created environmental problems.

“The bank always takes those lessons into account before implementing the next project,” Mr Illangovan said. He downplayed environmentalists concerns over the dam’s impact, saying that the environmental and social concerns had been studied extensively.

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