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Friday, January 18, 2008

Deputy PM visits Nam Theun sites

Mr Asang Laoly ( centre ) visits the site where Nam Theun 1 dam will be built on the Nam Kading River , about 33 km upstream from the Mekong.

The Nam Theun 1 hydropower project developer will send the results of a study of environmental, residential, ethnic development and social impacts to the Lao government for consideration at the end of this month.

Gamuda Berhad, the Malaysian project developer, made this commitment to the Chairman of the National Environment Committee, Mr Asang Laoly, who was accompanied by the Minister to the Prime Minister's Office, Ms Khempheng Pholsena, representatives of involved ministries and environmental officials, during a visit from January 11 to 14.

The visit was part of the committee's work in monitoring the environmental management strategies of the Nam Theun 1 and 2 hydropower projects, to provide directives and suggestions to both projects.

“Environment management and development has to be sustainable, which means that when villagers are asked to move away from the affected areas and resettle elsewhere, they must be able to remain in their new areas for many years to come,” said Mr Asang.

Mr Asang, who is also a Party Politburo Member and Deputy Prime Minister, gathered with his officials on the first day to hear the development report of the Nam Theun 1 project from the Borikhamxay governor.

The delegation then visited the affected areas of the project in Viengthong district, where they provided advice to local authorities and asked villagers about their living conditions.

Mr Asang suggested that the project take steps to develop the local health sector and help those who will be affected by the project, to ensure they get better living conditions.

“We need a more detailed report from the developer, because the report we received last year didn't contain enough information. The report has to follow our regulations and environmental laws,” said the Director General of the Environment Department of the Water Resources and Environment Administration, Dr Viengsavanh Douangsavanh.

The Malaysian development company signed a Memorandum of Understanding on May 26, 2004, with the Lao government to conduct pre-feasibility studies and an assessment of the environmental impacts of the Nam Theun 1 project.

The company also signed a project development agreement on November 28 in the same year.

The project site is in the central Lao province of Borikhamxay province; the dam will be built on the Nam Kading River , about 33 km upstream from the Mekong River , with an installation capacity of 523 megawatts.

On January 13 and 14, Mr Asang and his officials also visited the Nam Theun 2 project in Khammuan province, where they heard a progress report on the construction and development phases, particularly on environmental management and the improvement of the living conditions of villagers who have been relocated.

The delegation also visited various project sites, including the dam and reservoir, the power plant, and the weir and canals that will direct the water from the power plant to Xebangfai River , before it flows into the Mekong and other areas.

“We will start generating electricity early next year, even though we had originally planned to do so at the end of 2009. This indicates that the project is going very well,” said the Chief Operating Officer of the Nam Theun 2 Power Company Limited, Mr Christophe Maurel.

He explained to the delegation that there will be six channels to release electricity to consumers, four of which will have a combined installation capacity of 1,000 MW, which will be sold to Thailand .

The other two channels will have a combined capacity of 70 MW, and will sup ply the domestic market, he added.

By Panyasith Thammavongsa
( Latest Update January 16, 2008)

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