Mekong Utility Watch

Lao dam impact policies a ‘shambles’

Grainne Ryder
The Nation
December 13, 2007

A report by the Nam Theun 2 Power Company’s panel of international experts warns of  “significant impoverishment” in hundreds of villages affected by the World Bank’s model dam project, and says more donor aid is needed. Probe International’s Grainne Ryder argues instead that revenues from the Nam Theun 2 dam should go directly to villagers suffering losses caused by the dam’s operations. Read the article and letters to the editor from the World Bank, the former CEO of the French-led Nam Theun 2 Power Company, and the company’s former “downstream impacts manager.”

The Nation article

Read Letters to the Editors

Bernard Tribollet’s response (The Nation 17/12/07)

Erhard Floether’s reponse (The Nation 19/12/07)

World Bank response (The Nation 19/12/07)

Benefits of Lao dams not proven and yet to be seen (The Nation 19/12/07)

The letter by Mr Bernard Tribollet, former CEO of the Nam Theun Power Company, should be regarded as a historic document. The project itself was controversial from the day it showed up on the drawing board, and will remain so in future. It was this CEO who had the chance to bring it out of controversy through determined implementation of the social and environmental programmes. To resettle people just in time before they would be drowned is hardly an achievement. Now their houses are better and access to drinking water, electricity, health services and education is better – but aren’t these the normal obligation of any government?

The future livelihood of the resettled people is still not more than a promise, and for years they will depend on hand-outs. Downstream, the people affected by the construction are not so fortunate. Their income and livelihood will not be restored before the dam starts operating by the end of 2009. The slow and insufficient implementation of the compensation process is the responsibility of the Nam Theun Power Company and its CEO. He personally rejected the recommendations of experts for the modification of the downstream channel to reduce the impact on the Xe Bang Fai River ecosystem. Whatever development programme is in place, it will not be sufficient to compensate for the future damage. The start of the dam’s operation is not very far away. Let us watch the coming events very closely and then decide what legacy someone deserves.

Erhard Floether

Former PL/Downstream Manager

Nam Theun Power Company


Let’s stick to the facts on the Nam Theun 2 Dam (The Nation 19/12/07)

It is a shame that Probe International has chosen to attack the Nam Theun 2 hydro project in the Laos and forget what it is all about – the Lao people. Working with the government to generate revenues, foster economic growth and put in place transparent mechanisms to manage finances is by no means simple. But Laos deserves an opportunity to improve the living standards of its people.

The Nam Theun 2 project, which will generate US$2 billion over 25 years for the Lao government to invest in poverty reduction projects, offers that opportunity. That is why the World Bank is supporting this project.

NT2 was designed to not only benefit the country but also improve the living standards of the people affected by the project. Years of consultations with affected communities helped to develop a project that is responsive to their wishes and that works to mitigate the impacts they will inevitably suffer. In this way, 6,200 villagers in the Nakai Plateau are benefiting from new and better houses, access to roads, schools in each village, water pumps, toilets, electricity – things they had never enjoyed before. The World Bank, as well as numerous other entities, is working hard to ensure all social and environmental programmes are well implemented.

When Probe refers to the quality of agricultural land in the resettlement area, they choose to leave out the most important aspect: the Lao villagers who are being relocated chose this location above others with better soils due to cultural beliefs. While this poses additional implementation challenges, the project respected the people’s preference and is working with them to develop the most efficient forms of agriculture.

Probe’s misrepresentation of the Panel of Expert’s report and its claims on the management of the protected area by the Watershed Management Protection Authority, are also wrong. In fact, the Nakai-Nam Theun Protected Area is one of the best-managed in the country.

Nam Theun 2 implementation is not over. The project is progressively overcoming challenges and our work continues. Stakeholders need to recommend actions, share knowledge and provide input so NT2 can continue to be better implemented as, ultimately, it is people’s lives we are seeking to improve.

Peter Stephens

World Bank Communications Adviser


Categories: Mekong Utility Watch

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