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Friday, January 18, 2008

Hydropower plant promises improved living conditions

The chief sponsor of the Num Ngum 3 hydropower project has presented plans to address the serious social and environment impacts which may result from the proposed project.

This successfully completes one of the most important steps in the process required to allow the company to construct the power plant in Laos . A number of environmentalists and government representatives also attended yesterday's meeting to hear the presentation at Cosmo Hotel in Vientiane .

Deputy Head of Water Resource and Environment Administration, Mr Noulin Sinbandhit, confirmed that the government would give the green light for the company to continue with the project approval process, if it can be proven that after the construction of the power plant, GMS would go on to help the local people living in the project development area attain better living conditions.

According to the latest report, the area encompassed by the Nam Ngum 3 dam will extend to Longcheng village, situated some 65 km upstream from the Nam Ngum 1 hydropower plant in Thalat village. With an area of 3,890 square km required for the water reservoir, the project will necessitate the removal of a village containing 90 families, or 523 people.

Senior President of the GMS Power Company Limited, Mr Nopporn Prapaitrakul, said the company, which obtained permission from the Lao government to investigate the feasibility of the project, was well aware of the socio-environment impacts imposed by the power plant.

The company reportedly has an approved budget of US$20 million to specifically address these environment impacts, and to improve the living conditions of those affected.

Mr Nopporn said the company planned to improve the health and education services available to local people, and to raise the incomes of families as part of the project objectives.

The village chief of Xiengda village, Phoukout district, which will be flooded if the project goes ahead, said he and his village members were happy to move away from their homes, land and places of birth, to give the go-ahead for the construction of the power plant.

“It's government policy to turn Laos into a regional battery, and we have to follow this policy,” he said, adding that he believes the Party and government have the wisdom to implement the policy needed to lead all Lao people out of poverty.

He said he would, however, like the government and company sectors involved to help his village resettle in an area with sufficient fertile lands to grow crops and support future development.

Many families would be forced to abandon rice cultivation, he explained, and he hoped that training in new skills and knowledge, and new jobs would be offered to ensure prosperity in their new environment.

By Ekaphone Phouthonesy
(Latest Update January 17, 2008)

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