Archive for ‘Environments’

August 29, 2014

Sounding off on ADB’s contentious Laos dam project

By Eliza Villarino, 28 August 2014

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Safety posters around the Nam Ngiep River warn people to watch out for blasting schedules and precautionary measures to prevent accidents. Photo by: International Rivers / CC BY-NC-SA 

The proposed construction of a dam on Nam Ngiep River in central Laos has drawn strong criticism. Recently, the Asian Development Bank approved $50 million for the project, and two international advocacy groups noted the lack of proper consultations with residents and the possible impact on their livelihoods.

“Even though the project has been approved, it should be a point of concern,” Tanya Lee, International Rivers program coordinator for Laos, told Devex this week. “ADB has — in a number of instances — invested in power projects [that] are not sustainable because of the effects on people’s livelihoods, their food security and the river ecosystems they depend on.”

ADB, meanwhile, has affirmed that the project complies with the bank’s safeguard standards.

Our coverage of the dam project prompted many Devex readers to weigh in as well over the past week.

Laos needs “a few good dams” to develop the industrial sector but it has overbuilt some which may result in insurmountable foreign debts, Nkajlo Vangh said.

Saripalli Suryanarayana suggested that the project could to be part of a bilateral trade agreement with neighboring Thailand. If the project won’t benefit Laos in the first place, why build such a massive dam that would displace 3,000 people?

ADB officials should make sure to visit the settlement area and proposed housing and marketing facilities, Suryanarayana said, to determine how much land would be lost and whether residents who are compelled to relocate are compensated sufficiently to establish livelihoods elsewhere. Given those concerns, Saripalli suggested that the bank fund a mid-size plant (a 20-50 MW facility) rather than a massive dam whose output is expected to be mostly exported to Thailand.

Allan Beesey pointed out previous instances when ADB “failed miserably” to ensure projects comply with safeguards.

“The fact that these things happen despite the rhetoric and substantial resources, and years of developing and refining safeguards suggests that there is something seriously amiss, and yes it has been pointed out here that politics is at play, and yes the ADB puts the countries’ political interests (read greed and power) first,” he said. “The ADB goes out of its way to keep good relations with its client countries, and this means vulnerable populations lose out despite the noises made about ethnic minority plans. More transparency is needed.”

Do you have the same concerns about this dam project? Is there anything else ADB should be doing to ensure the project will have a positive impact on Laos? Share your views by leaving a comment below.  

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About the author

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Eliza Villarino

 Eliza Villarino manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.
August 28, 2014

Cambodia, US Share Concerns Over Lao Dam

Cambodia, US Share Concerns Over Lao Dam

By | August 28, 2014
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Following a meeting with a visiting U.S. diplomat on Wednesday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Secretary of State Ouch Borith said the U.S. shares Cambodia’s concerns about a controversial hydropower dam Laos is planning to build on the Mekong River.

Cambodia and Vietnam both fear that the 256-MW Don Sahong dam in southern Laos will severely reduce vital fish stocks in the Lower Mekong and its tributaries.

Mr. Borith said that Scot Marciel, principal deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. State Department’s bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, shared the two countries’ worry.

“We have concerns that this huge dam that Laos wants to build will affect the Mekong,” Mr. Borith told reporters after the meeting. “Mr. Scot said that [U.S. Secretary of State] John Kerry has also discussed this and has pushed Laos to host a summit in Laos by the end of the year.”

In June, Laos agreed to postpone construction of the dam until it consults with its neighbors.

Mr. Borith said Mr. Marciel also asked him about the status of a draft memorandum of understanding between Cambodia and Australia that would see refugees detained while trying to reach Australia resettled in Cambodia.

The deal has come under widespread rebuke from opposition lawmakers and rights groups in both Cambodia and Australia because it would send the refugees to one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world.

Mr. Borith said he told the U.S. diplomat that proposals were still being reviewed, but declined to say anything else about the pending deal, which both Cambodia and Australia have shrouded in secrecy.

“No discussion at all, he just want[ed] to know what the situation is,” he said.

Mr. Marciel, he added, also welcomed the recent political settlement that saw the opposition CNRP end its yearlong boycott of the National Assembly over 2013’s national elections, which the opposition accuses the CPP of rigging.

Mr. Marciel did not stop to speak with reporters after the meeting, and the U.S. Embassy did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

© 2014, The Cambodia Daily.


US Seeking Stronger Ties With Cambodia

Kong Sothanarith  | August 28, 2014 3:35 PM
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FILE - U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Scot Marciel gestures during a press conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 4, 2013.

FILE – U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Scot Marciel gestures during a press conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 4, 2013.

A senior U.S. diplomat says the country is looking to strengthen ties with Cambodia following an end to the nation’s yearlong political stalemate.ScotMarciel, the State Department’s leading diplomat for Southeast Asia, told VOA Khmer in an interview Wednesday that Washington wants to have a good relationship with the people of Cambodia.“We have an interest in a Cambodia that is successful, democratic, more prosperous, enjoying good health and good education,” said Marciel. “This is mostly up to the Cambodian people, but we want to be supportive because it’s in our interest for Cambodia to be successful.”

The U.S. has made a recent diplomatic push in Asia, where China’s influence continues to grow. But Marciel said Wednesday the U.S. is “not focused on what China is doing here.”

“We’re really focused on what we can do, how we can build a relationship with the people and the nation of Cambodia, a closer relationship,” he said.

Cambodia suffered a nearly yearlong political deadlock following 2013 elections that the opposition said were marred by fraud.

A political deal last month led to an end of the opposition boycott of the assembly and has opened space for negotiations on electoral and democratic reforms.

Marciel, who was on a three-day trip to the country as part of a visit to several ASEAN nations, met with Ouch Borith, secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  No details were made available about their meeting. Still, Marciel said Wednesday that Cambodia’s moves toward reforms are encouraging.

“The people here have made clear that they would like to see some more reforms, some progress on some of the challenges that Cambodia faces, and we feel the same way,” he said. “We are hopeful that the government and the parliament, now that it is seated, can move ahead on some of the reforms that people here have called for. We think that would be a positive step.”

The U.S. would like to see continued reform over the National Election Committee, he said, as well as renewed efforts to battle corruption and improve governance, the judicial system and the country’s human rights record.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.

August 24, 2014

Laos-located Don Sahong hydropower project impacts discussed

Laos-located Don Sahong hydropower project impacts discussed


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VietNamNet BridgeHydropower projects on the Mekong River, including the Don Sahong in Laos, will pose a threat to the balance of water, fish, and alluvium resources, while harming the ecosystem in the Mekong Delta region, said an expert on climate change.

Prof. Doc. Le Anh Tuan from the Research Institute for Climate Change at Can Tho University, pointed out that Don Sahong, the second hydropower project to be developed on a section of the Mekong River running though Laos, could lead to an extinction of catfish and other migrant fish species in the river.

It would also remarkably reduce the number of endemic fish in downstream areas, Tuan said at a conference held on August 21 in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho to prepare ideas to be contributed to the proposed Don Sahong hydropower project on the mainstream of the Mekong River.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Thanh Hai, office manager of the Steering Committee for Southwestern Region, said if all 12 hydropower projects are developed upstream, 55 percent of the Mekong River will become large reservoirs. Meanwhile, downstream areas, especially the Mekong Delta region, would suffer from environmental risks, he said.

At the same time, climate change and sea level rise would lead to salinity intrusion in most of the farming areas in the region, affecting the livelihood of about 30 million residents, he said.

Nguyen Huu Thien, an independent specialist, said the whole region would be affected by decisions on hydropower development in the Mekong River – one of the greatest rivers in the world possessing a rich resource that feeds millions of people.

He emphasised that the decisions must base on thorough, quality researches with consultations from governments and communities affected.

During the event, scientists updated the development process of hydropower projects on the Mekong River mainstream, assessment of environment impact of Don Sahong dam, and consultation process for Xayabury hydropower project.

Participants discussed ways to organise the consultations on Don Sahong project and how Mekong Delta localities engage in the process in a most effective manner.

The Mekong River is the world’s 12th longest river. It runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.


August 24, 2014

ADB: Hydropower project in Laos secures $217m loan

Hydropower project in Laos secures $217m loan


Infrastructure & Generation | Aug 24, 2014

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Copyright: Thinkstock

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved funding worth $217 million for a 290MW hydropower project in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR).

The bulk of the electricity generated by Nam Ngiep 1 will be delivered to neighbouring Thailand, which relies heavily on natural gas. The project is expected to cut around 500,000 tons of carbon emissions in Thailand every year.

The Lao PDR has a hydropower potential of 20,000MW, according to the ADB.

Kurumi Fukaya, Lead Investment Specialist at ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department said: “The project is a win-win for the Lao PDR and Thailand. It will generate revenues for the Lao PDR’s economic and social development and provide Thailand with cost-efficient power.”

The facility is expected to start producing electricity in 2019.


World Bank supports hydropower sector in Laos


Aug 20, 2014

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Vientiane, capital of Laos. Copyright: Thinkstock
Vientiane, capital of Laos. Copyright: Thinkstock

The World Bank is supporting the renewable energy industry in Laos by providing a multi-million pound loan.

It has signed an agreement with the Government of Loa People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) for new financing worth $17.8 million (£10.7m) to help the nation manage its hydropower and mining resources.

The cash will be used for the ‘Technical Assistance for Capacity Building in the Hydropower and Mining Sectors Project’ in Laos, which is expected to help the nation meet the power and hydro demands of its neighbouring countries.

Thipphakone Chanthavongsa, Vice Minister of Finance of the Lao PDR said: “The projects will contribute to the socioeconomic development and environmental sustainability of Lao PDR.”


August 24, 2014

Villagers call for say in Laos dam project

Villagers call for say in Laos dam project

Published: 23 Aug 2014 at 06.00

News Writer: Paritta Wangkiat

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Northern and northeastern villagers living along the Mekong River have called on the government to include them in the “prior consultation” process for the proposed Don Sahong dam in Laos. The villagers from eight provinces along the Mekong River, together with conservationists looking to preserve natural resources and Mekong-Lanna culture, submitted an open letter to the natural resources and environmental permanent secretary yesterday to express their concerns over the Don Sahong project.

“We’ve not yet heard anything about the project since it was agreed,” said Niwat Roykaew, a villager representative.

“Many villagers are concerned because they fear being excluded from participating in the decision-making process,” he said.

In June, Laos’ Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Viraphonh Viravong told a Mekong River Commission (MRC) meeting in Thailand that the Don Sahong project would be submitted for six months of prior consultation among the lower Mekong countries.

Laos had bowed to pressure to do so from the governments of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Mr Niwat said villagers feared events surrounding Laos’ controversial Xayaburi dam project would repeat themselves.

Villagers were told about the Xayaburi dam’s construction retrospectively and there was no mention of the dam’s environmental impacts, he added.

“That was not consultation, but notification,” he said. In their letter submitted yesterday, the villagers called for the Department of Water Resources (DWR), which provides secretarial services for the Thai MRC, to hold public consultations in all eight provinces with at least one to take place in a district adjacent to the Mekong River.

These consultations must be announced in advance by the government and by local administrative organisations on radio and in local newspapers to allow stakeholders to participate in them. Information from Laos on the Don Sahong project must be translated and provided to locals at least 30 days before the consultations, the letter said.

The network also demanded the DWR cancel studies into and monitoring of cross-border environmental impacts from hydroelectric power projects on the Mekong because they lacked local participation.

Laos signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Malaysian firm Mega First Corporation Berhad for the Don Sahong hydroelectric dam project in 2006, the second of nine proposed by Laos for the lower Mekong.

The first was for the Xayaburi dam. In June, the Supreme Administrative Court accepted a case brought by 37 villagers living along the Mekong River against Thai government agencies buying power from the Xayaburi dam.



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