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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Research reveals Nam Ngum 3 hydropower potential

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) yesterday presented its research on the social and environmental impacts which may occur if the government allows construction to proceed on the Nam Ngum 3 hydropower plant in Vientiane province.
The bank is considering granting a loan to the Lao government to purchase a share in the 440MW hydropower project, some 150 km north of Vientiane .
Deputy Director General of the Electricit y Department of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, Mr Hadsady Sisoulath, presided over the presentation session at Don Chan Palace in Vientiane , with a number of government officials, ADB and NGO representatives attending.
The meeting participants had the opportunity to express their opinions and concerns over the impacts of the project, which requires 3,890 square km as a catchment area.
Speaking at the opening of the meeting, Mr Hadsady said the cumulative impact assessment would provide a basin planning and management “roadmap” to minimise the social and environment impacts of the project and ensure the wellbeing of people in the development area.
Mr Hadsady said the government considered the Nam Ngum 3 hydropower project a top development priority to export electricity to neighbouring Thailand . The project is expected to generate millions of dollars for Lao poverty reduction programmes.
According to the ADB research, which was carried out from May to November 2007, the power plant project will include developing infrastructure in the areas surrounding the dam, which would speed up the ongoing process of integration and assimilation of ethnic groups into a common culture.
Urbanisation would likely accelerate wit h improved transportation facilities, allowing people in rural areas to access city development as well as health care. A number of schools will be built and general education will be improved respectively, the report says.
Rural people will have better access to local markets and some families will benefit from growing newly introduced cash crops. New technologies and consumer products will have entered the area, making life easier for those who can afford them.
The dam's reservoir and surroundings will become a recreation area, attracting tourism and opening up income opportunities for locals as well as outside investors.
Senior President of the GMS Power Company Limited, Mr Nopporn Prapaitrakul, whose company gained permission from the Lao government to build the dam, announced last week that the company would spend US$20 million to address the socio-environmental impacts of the project throughout its operation.

By Ekaphone Phouthonesy (Latest Update January 23, 2008)

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