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Sunday, August 5, 2007

Nam Theun 2 an example for future dams

The Nam Theun 2 hydropower project is one of the most studied in the world, World Bank Country Manager Mr Patchamuthu Illangovan said during a stakeholders' forum, held in Khammuan last week.

He explained that in terms of its irrigation action, this project was state-of-the-art, and would be one of the best examples for future hydroelectric development, not only in Laos but in many other countries as well.

The Second Annual Stakeholder's Forum, held over three days, was sponsored by the Lao government and the Nam Theun 2 Power Company.

It aimed at providing a progress report and giving participants the opportunity to view first-hand the construction phase, village resettlements and livelihood development activities.

The government and company, in turn, had the opportunity to gather feedback from a variety of stakeholders, including representatives of local and international non-government organisations (NGOs), local and foreign media representatives, the diplomatic corps, local government officials, academics, financial institutions and international organisations.

In regards to recent statements made by an NGO critical of the project, the International Rivers Network (IRN), a Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Mr Yong Chanthalangsy, said “Our commitment to ensuring people benefit from this project and that concerns from all parties are promptly addressed, have been presented these past three days.”

“It is unfortunate that organisations like IRN continue to misrepresent information to the public and make exaggerated claims that offer no contribution to the improvement of this project,” he said.

The Minister of Energy and Mines, Dr Bosaikham Vongdara, opened the forum and welcomed participants by explaining that Nam Theun II was a development project, directly contributing to poverty alleviation in Laos.

The first day featured presentations from various government and company representatives, as well as NGOs working on the project and villagers impacted by the dam.

Presentations covered all aspects of the project, including construction, resettlement activities, livelihood development programmes across the project area, health programmes, biomass clearance, salvage logging, wildlife protection and revenue management arrangements, among others.

Question-and-answer sessions provided an opportunity for stakeholders to get further information, share their concerns with the government and the company, and get feedback.

“This is a complex project covering three distinct areas, and we wanted to provide comprehensive information to update stakeholders on the progress made thus far and the measures we are taking to ensure all the social and environmental impacts are effectively mitigated,” said the Chief Operating Officer of the Nam Theun 2 Power Company, Mr Bernard Tribollet.

On the second day, more than 50 vehicles, including buses, vans, trucks and cars in caravan carrying passengers from more than 350 national and international stakeholders and representatives from local and overseas media organisations, visited the project site.

Some groups went directly to see the downstream tunnel, which will release water into the Xe Bang Fai River and then drove along the stream channel to see the power station.

After a question-and-answer session about the progress of the power station, they drove to Nakai Plateau. Nam Theun 2 project officials guided visitors to see the construction of the water intake tunnel, which will release water to generate electricity.

After lunch the visitors headed to the resettlement village of Sop-on to see the progress of house construction and to interview villagers. Various foreign media representatives interviewed women and the village head to get a first-hand account of their experience throughout the process.

The village head explained that the villagers had been involved in up to 95 percent of the decision-making process, including where to move and what their houses would look like. When asked how he viewed his life in the new village, he said his village was “seeing the light of a better future”.

On the third day, Nam Theun 2 officials guided visitors on a visit to the old and new resettled villages of Sop-hiar, Nakai Tai and Nakai Neua, before returning to visit the power houses and villages along the downstream channel and along Xe Bang Fai River in Nhommalath district, where they would see the project's impact.

According to project officials, these villages have flooded every year during the rainy season, and once the Nam Theun 2 project was finished, this would no longer occur because the dam would be regulated to control and release water into the Xe Bang Fai River.

With more than two thirds of the villages resettled and livelihood development activities well underway, the project is on track to meet its target of starting operations in December 2009.

Dam construction, planned over a four-year period, is more than 50 percent complete, while the livelihood development activities and other social and environmental programmes have a longer timeline, spanning eight to 10 years.

“It's important to keep in mind that while dam construction and social and environmental activities are increasingly better synchronised, the timeline of these is different, and the livelihood and other social and environmental programmes are set to continue well beyond the completion of dam construction,” explained the Deputy Director for the Environmental and Social Division at the company, Mr Olivier Salignat.

Nam Theun 2 is a 1,070 megawatt US$1.25 billion hydropower project. Revenues, set to begin flowing in 2010, are estimated to reach US$2 billion over the 25-year concession period.

The project will greatly contribute to the government's poverty alleviation efforts and will benefit the 6,200 people who are being resettled and are beginning to take advantage of improved infrastructure, livelihoods and access to social services.

The project is also in the process of developing sustainable livelihoods for 70,000 people in areas downstream of the project, as well as providing employment opportunities for more than 6,500 local people.

The Nam Theun 2 project is the largest cross-border hydroelectric project to be built in Laos for selling electricity to Thailand . This hydropower proje ct is one of the 10 largest hydropower projects in the Asean region, said the General Manager of Lao Holding State Enterprise, Dr Somboune Manolom.

Electricite de France owns 35 percent of the shares, 25 percent are owned by Electricite du Laos, 25 percent by the Electricity Generating Public Company Limited of Thailand and 15 percent by the Italian-Thai Development Public Company Limited of Thailand .

By Vientiane Times
(Latest update July 2, 2007)

1 comment:

Phanomsinh said...

Yesterday I got mail from a student in Australia. He asked me about Nam Theun 2. For the first time I wondered from who he knew me?
He sent the second e-mail that he searched for Nam Theun 2 and found this site together with my e-mail address.