04/29/2005, 00.00
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New dam to destroy livelihood to more than 100,000 people

Vientiane (AsiaNews/Agencies) – At least, 6,200 Laotians will have to leave their land to give way to the third largest hydroelectric dam project in to world.

The World Bank is backing the constructing of the Nam Theun 2 project with loans and guarantees worth US$ 1.2 billion. When completed in 2009 it will generate 1,070 MW of electricity.

for this to be achieved, an area of 450 square kilometres in Nakai plateau must be flooded forcing 6,200 natives to be relocated and affecting another 100,000 living downstream whose livelihood—fishing and crop irrigation—will become untenable and be destroyed.

The dam project is however very controversial. The World Bank says that it backs only plans that reduce poverty and provide concrete advantages to affected communities with a minimal environmental impact.

By contrast, many non governmental organisations fear instead that such a project will destroy the livelihood of thousands of people in addition to harming the environment.

Aviva Imhov, director of the International River Network, said that the 6,200 people will be moved to a very small piece of land, in which nothing can be grown without a lot of fertiliser.

"The project provides support for three years then the villagers are on their own," Ms  Imhov said, and "the World Bank is under pressure from powerful dam building countries like China and India to get back in, and the current US administration is in favour" of dam building.

In 1998 the Laotian government began building the Nam Theun-Hinboun hydroelectric project, about 50 kilometres downriver. Seven years later the villagers who were moved are still waiting for the compensation they were promised for the loss of their houses and fishing traps. (PB)

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