Nam theun 2 hydropower
Keywords: nam theun 2 hydropower
Description: The Nam Theun 2 dam is currently the largest hydro-electric power plant in Lao PDR. In spite of being a supposed ‘showpiece’ project, it has been associated to large negative social and
The Nam Theun 2 dam is currently the largest hydro-electric power plant in Lao PDR. In spite of being a supposed ‘showpiece’ project, it has been associated to large negative social and environmental impacts.
Already in 1927, the site was first described as potential area for a dam project. First studies and concessions followed in the 1990s, but the project was put on ice due to the 1997 Asian financial crisis. It returned on the development agenda in 2003, with the signing of a long-term power purchase agreement between Laos and Thailand, assuring the export of more than 90% of the dam’s generated electricity to Thailand. A consortium of corporations from Thailand, France and Laos was formed to establish the operating company NTPC (Nam Theun 2 Power Company Limited), supported by the World Bank Group and Asian Development Bank. Already since planning, the projects was accompanied by protests of villagers and environmental organizations (1;6;8). Public consultation with affected communities was reported to be inadequate and incomplete (7) and petitions to stop the project were supported by 153 NGO's from 43 countries (9). In spite of these CSO efforts, it was approved by the World Bank on March 31, 2005. Having achieved the largest foreign investment ever in Lao PDR’s hydro-sector, NTPC started the construction in 2005 and commercial operation was ready in April 2010 (1;2). According to a World Bank spokesperson, the Nam Theun 2 dam has been “a project that has seen a lot of thought put into its side-effects on the environment and the local communities” (3;10).
Bearing in mind that the produced electricity does not benefit the area, but mainly neighbouring Thailand, the Nam Theun 2 dam can be understood as cross-border land grab for energy production, in which the benefits in terms of electricity and financial revenues have been largely appropriated by foreign countries and international corporations, while heavy social and environmental costs have been carried by local communities.