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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NA approves Hongsa power plant amid environment concerns

The Hongsa lignite-fired power plant pr oject was yesterday given in-principle approval by the National Assembly, despite its concern the project could negatively impact the environment and livelihood of local people.

One of their main concerns was the health of people who lived in surrounding areas, as the plant will emit carbon dioxide as part of the electricity production process. The members encouraged the project to use clean technology as much as possible.

NA members urged the government to continue doing a detailed study on the negative and positive impacts of the project, whilst demanding reasonable compensation for the 367 families from five villages who would have to be resettled.

NA member for Champassak province, Mr Kisin Sinphan-ngam, said the living standards of the 367 families must be improved.

“They need to have enough land to support themselves,” he said.

“If they don't, this project will only increase their poverty.”

NA member for Khammuan province , Dr Bounnhong Khinsamone, said Laos had not reaped the full benefits of foreign investment in the past. He gave the example of companies that had promised to employ Lao workers, but later claimed local workers did not have the necessary skills and so imported foreign labour instead.

The Lao Holding State Enterprise General Manager, Dr Somboune Manolom, accepted the project would have some negative impacts but claimed the benefits would be far greater, boosting the country's economy while reducing poverty.

Electricity production will begin in 2013, with the project costing about US$3,900 million.

The country will receive more than US$2,500 million over a 25 year period through share dividends and taxes.

The Lao government will hold a 20 percent share in the project, worth US$196 million. About US$100 million of the value of the government's share will be borrowed from the EXIM Bank of China and the remainder from th e China Development Bank.

Almost 13 million tonnes of lignite will be excavated to supply the plant each year, totalling 325 million tonnes over the 25 years of the project concession.

There is estimated to be about 713 million tonnes of lignite in the 12sqkm of land allocated to the project. This is sufficient to continue fuelling the power station for an additional 25 years after the concession period ends.

The project is expected to create jobs for about 10,000 people, of which 80 percent will be Lao.

Local people will also benefit from infrastructure development including roads, schools, irrigation, hospitals, markets and electricity.

Villagers will not need to be resettled until the project commences work in the areas they live in.

The government has set up an environmental management committee to resettle villages affected by the project to ensure its effectiveness.

Article 9 of the electricity law stipulates that hydropower development projects with an installed capacity of more than 50,000 kilowatts must be approved by the NA.

The law on water and water resources further stipulates that any changes to water flow also need approval from the NA.

The Hongsa lignite project will have a generating capacity of 1,800 megawatts and will change existing water flow, meaning the project requires approval by the NA.

By Somsack Pongkhao
(Latest Update July 25, 2008)

1 comment:

nicolas said...

Thank you for the information. Who is going to build the power plant?