Vientiane Times, 13 August 2013
The Honorary Consul of Laos to Switzerland, Swiss national Dr Guido Kappeli, has voiced support for the sustainable development of the Xayaboury dam and the Lao government’s sustainable development of hydropower as a whole.
Dr Kappeli gave an interview to local media following his visit to the under-construction Xayaboury dam on Sunday, where he learnt firsthand about the environmentally friendly technology being used to develop the run-of-river dam.
The honorary consul said the electricity produced through hydropower is a renewable form of energy and represents a better alternative to other sources.
He said he was convinced the Xayaboury dam is a ‘sustainable development project’.
Asked for his views on the possible impacts of the project, Dr Kappeli said it was inevitable that any form of development would have some kind of impact.
But, he said, “You need to weigh up the positive and negative impacts. The negative impacts must be much smaller than the positive ones.”
In terms of economics, he said, revenue from the project would benefit the more than 6 million people who make up the population of Laos. The revenue generated would fuel the government’s efforts to fight poverty.
During the 29-year concession period, the project would earn almost US$4 billion for the Lao government.
After watching a video on how fish would migrate up and downstream through the fish passage facilities that will be installed, and how sediment will be flushed downstream, Dr Kappeli said he was “convinced” these built-in features would enable normal fish migration and sediment flow.
“We won’t collect sediment upstream of the dam,” Lead Engineer of Xayaboury Power Prat Nantasen told guests while explaining the video footage.
If sediment were collected upstream, it would reduce the capacity for electricity gen eration and the developers would not allow this, he told the Vientiane Times.
“Therefore, all the sediment must be flushed out downstream,” he said. “Tests conducted using a model of the dam proved that sediment will be flushed out properly.”
The 10 metre wide and 6 metre deep fish passage facility will enable large fish to pass through the dam.
Senior project manager with Poyry – the project’s consulting company from Switzerland – Mr Rene Schmidiger said he was confident the fish passage and sediment flushing facilities will work properly.
In addition, fishing boats and cargo ships weighing up to 500 tonnes will be able to pass up and downstream through a lock that will be specially built as part of the dam.
The US$3.5 billion project is currently about 13 percent complete and is scheduled to be commissioned in 2019.
The Lao government has repeated its commitment to develop the Xayaboury dam as a ‘responsible dam’, demonstrating social and environmental responsibility, as well as showing responsibility both domestically and regionally.
Two internationally-recognised consulting companies – Poyry and Compagnie Nationale du Rhone of France – have been employed to oversee that the dam is built in line with internationally acceptable standards, particularly in relation to sediment flow and fish passage.
Regarding social responsibility, a large sum of money is being spent to build new villages to house communities which have been and will be relocated to make way for the dam. Various facilities and essential infrastructure will also be provided in the new villages.
Some 1,974 people in seven villages will be required to move to newly built villages, according to the project’s representative in charge of resettlement and livelihood improvement affairs, Mr Soukanh Phongsavath.
Three of these communities have already relocated. The residents of another eight villages will move to higher ground in the area of the dam.
“The newcomers, formerly isolated in their old communities, are now connected to roads, electricity and water supply in new homes,” Mr Soukanh said.
Mr Thitsathan Soutkeo, who moved to the newly built village of Natoryai in Xayaboury district 19 months ago, said “It now takes us less than half an hour to reach the hospital by road. In our old village, Houaysui, it took us more than an hour because we had to travel by boat along the Mekong.”
The newcomers have been given training on crop planting and animal rearing to help them make a living, district Governor Ms Bounphak Inthapanya told Dr Kappeli when he visited Natoryai village.
Dr Kappeli congratulated all the parties involved on the arrangements made to improve the livelihoods of those moving to new locations.