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Villages make way for new hydro project

Dodgy deals
By Vientiane Times | Vientiane, Aug 5 2010

More than three hundred households are in the process of being relocated to accommodate the new Nam Gnouang dam on the border of Borikhamxay and Khammuan provinces.

The 313 households from five villages will be moved to Khamkeut and Xaychomphone districts in Borikhamxay province by 2011, said Mrs Surapha Viravong, Deputy Site Manager of the Social and Environmental Division of Theun-Hinboun Power Company (THPC), who are operating the project.

“The Nan Gnouang reservoir will be filled to capacity when the project is completed, meaning village resettlement will have to be finished before the dam is operational in 2012,” she explained. The main construction work and progress of the dam is now about 45 percent complete.

The main dam will be built on the Gnouang River – one of the major tributaries on the Nam Theun or Nam Kading River system – about 27 kilometres upstream from the existing Theun-Hinboun Power Project diversion weir.

“The move will provide us with a window to the future, while the project itself will help to alleviate poverty and promote economic and social development to people in the country,” Mrs Surapha said.

The company will resettle affected villagers in areas with new houses, schools, health centres and community infrastructure projects, complete with electricity and water supply, she added.

Alternative livelihoods such as irrigated agriculture, jobs and training opportunities in road development, community forestry and reservoir fishing have also been planned to ensure widespread improvement in living standards.

Laos is a landlocked country but is rich in rivers and forested mountains, for which the development of hydroelectricity is, at present, the main opportunity for achieving sustainable development.

According to the THPC, 125 households in two villages in the Nam Gnouang dam project area have already been moved to Nongxong village in Khamkeut district, Borikhamxay province.

In 2010, about 285 households in five villages will be moved to Sopphouan and Phonthong villages in Khamkeut district.

THPC's shareholders include Electricite du Laos (EDL) with 60 percent, Statkraft SF with 20 percent and GMS Lao Company Ltd, which holds the remaining 20 percent. The existing hydropower plant is also located in both Bolikhamxay and Khammuan provinces, with commercial operations commencing in March 1998.

The Theun-Hinboun Expansion Project (THXP) involves a 70m high upstream dam and reservoir on the Nam Gnouang River and a new 60MW power station at the Nam Gnouang dam. That means a 230MW expansion of the existing THPC capacity, and 150 km of new 115kV and 230kV transmission lines.

Ninety-five percent – 995 MW – of the power generated by the dam will be exported to Thailand, while 75 MW per day will be distributed daily to EDL.

The additional power that will be supplied as a result of the expansion of THPC's facilities will provide Laos with significant new revenue sources and important additional power for industrial growth and development.

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