Nam Theun 2 dam site...then and now

Nam Theun 2 Dam

In 2005, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank approved millions of dollars in guarantees and loans for the Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project in central Laos. The $1.3 billion project is supposed to generate revenue for the Lao government through power exports to Thailand. Project proponents claim that Nam Theun 2 revenues will be used to help the poor. But in a country ranked as one of the 20 most corrupt by Transparency International, that is a high-risk bet - especially for the tens of thousands of Laotians bearing the project's social and environmental costs.

The Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project began full operation in March 2010. Approximately 6,200 indigenous people living on the Nakai Plateau have been resettled to make way for the reservoir. More than 110,000 people downstream, who depend on the Xe Bang Fai and Nam Theun rivers for their livelihoods, have been directly affected by the project, due to destruction of fisheries, flooding of riverbank gardens and water quality problems (see map). 

World Bank and Asian Development Bank resettlement policies have been violated, along with provisions of the Concession Agreement. People on the Nakai Plateau still have no source of sustainable livelihood, threatening their food security. Tens of thousands of people living downstream along the Xe Bang Fai River have already suffered impaired water quality and fisheries, and funding is inadequate to restore their livelihoods. A key selling point of the project was the funds it would provide for protection of the globally significant Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area, yet the reservoir has opened up a access to the area, exacerbating logging and poaching and threatening its ecological integrity.

International Rivers is working to ensure that the developers, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Government of Laos uphold their commitments to affected people and the environment. In particular, we are monitoring the situation of downstream communities along the Xe Bang Fai River, who continue to face adverse effects from the loss of access to fisheries, sufficient clean water for daily use and land to farm rice during the rainy season.

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