Vientiane (AsiaNews) - Residents from villages that were evacuated to
give way to the construction of the Nam Theun 2 hydroelectric mega dam have
been relocated in new settlements where they have "an electricity connection and improved water supply," the World Bank Laos
office said in a statement designed to refute a report on Radio Free Asia (RFA), later
picked by other media according to which some of the people resettled
had no water or electricity. For project's builders and financial backers, the
plant's intended purpose is "to develop
significantly better livelihoods and living standards than they [the evacuees] had
before the project".
In a note to AsiaNews, World Bank
Laos office spokeswoman Meriem Gray said that, as part of the compensation
package for losing their homes in favour of the dam, every household in the new
settlements on the Nakai plateau was connected to the electric grid and was
given access to drinking water.
The project has not caused any above average flooding, whilst the small number of families who "voluntarily chose
not to relocate to the resettlement villages [. . .] were provided significant
The 1,070-megawatt project was built on a tributary of the
Mekong River in Khammouane province has been producing electricity since March
2010. More than 90 per cent of its output goes to Thailand.
The dam, which diverts water from the Nam Theun River
to the Xe Bang Fai River, cost US$ 1.25 billion project, provided by
international institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
Nam Theun 2 is expected to generate around US $ 2 billion in
revenues for Laos and reduce its dependency on foreign aid whilst providing
funds for environmental protection and development, the World
Bank Laos office said.
However, environmental groups like International Rivers say that the dam will not touch just a few
hundreds of evacuees, but rather seriously affect the livelihoods of at least
100,000 people who depend on
fishing in the Xe Bang Fai and Nam Theun rivers
At present, Laos has 14 operational
hydropower dams, 10 under construction, and 56 proposed or in planning stages. They include the controversial Xayaburi dam on the lower Mekong, which experts
believe will have a major impact on the environment.