Vientiane Times, January 19, 2012
“It’s more than two yers since my family moved to make way for the Theun-Hinboun hydropower expansion project to this new location in Keosaenkham village. We are currently enjoying life here,” a village resident, Mr Xiengtay Xayphasy, told local media during a visit made to the site last week.
“We are happy to have electricity, new roads, a school, a health office and piped water. This is very different to our original village where we lived for so long.”
He said that children in particular have benefited because they now have more education opportunities and enjoy better health thanks to improved sanitation.
Women in the village also have the opportunity to access better health care and earn extra income from weaving and livestock breeding thanks to loans provided by the project .
Most of the people are slash-and-burn farmers who also raise livestock such as buffalo, cattle and poultry to make a living.
However, they still need more land on which to grow rice to ensure they can live comfortably and have sufficient rice for their future needs.
“After going through several training sessions and observing practices in other provinces supported by the hydropower project, I can now raise animals both for my family’s needs and to sell,” Mr Xiengtay said.
He has two daughters living with him, one of whom is benefiting by doing weaving after the project gave her a loan, while the other is a teacher at the local lower secondary school.
The first daughter, Ms Khamkeo Xayphasy 27, said weaving allows her to make enough money to pay for her children’s education and for the family to have some spending money.
As electricity provides light, she can weave at nighttime and, with good road access to the village, it is easy for traders to visit and buy her products at the house.
The other daughter, Ms Khao Xayphasy, 18, a village youth leader and teacher, said she will try to ensure that the children in the village get a better education than their parents so they can progress further and perhaps move from working on the land into some kind of business. She believes this will bring them a brighter future.
One elderly man, Mr Thone, 77, said that if his family were still living in their former village, his nephew and niece might never have the opportunity to study as they lived far from the nearest school.
But despite the new village having many facilities, the inhabitants are still limited in their cultivation of wet season rice and suffer from a shortage of water to grow vegetables in the dry season.
Construction of the Nam Gnouang dam has necessitated the relocation of 12 villages containing about 4,000 people in the Nam Gnouang valley. Keosaenkham village in Xaychamphone district, Borikhamxay province, has absorbed four of them, involving about 1,080 people in 181 households.
The Theun-Hinboun Hydropower Project Company says resettled families will have a better standard of living and sustainable livelihoods.
An entitlement policy outlines these obligations, which include improved housing on plots of 1,000 square metres for a vegetable garden, fruit trees, a small plot on which to raise livestock, one hectare of rice fields and half a hectare of upland fields on which to grow cash crops and trees.
Also mentioned in the policy are access to communal forests, grazing areas, a river and fish ponds, improved health and education services, all year road access to markets, and technical assistance, tools and equipment.
“For the first three years, the company provides rice for the relocated households to eat and gives them various varieties of rice seeds to plant, along with seeds to grow cash crops,” said Social and Environment Division Deputy Manager, Ms Surapha Viravong.
“After that we will continue to help them by promoting activities such as growing rice and cash crops, raising livestock for sale and consumption, and a conservation area programme to encourage sustainable development,” she added.
She expects that from now until 2017, the company will be instrumental in driving up family incomes to more than 17 million kip a year.
The company plans to relocate 13 more villages of over 1,000 families from the central area of the Nam Hinboun from 2013 to 2017.
From 2010 to 2012 it has relocated 11 villages of about 600 families, from the powerhouse area downstream and part of the Nam Hinboun.
The Theun-Hinboun Power Company has invested US$60 million into community resettlement, improving the environment and contributing to the development of education, public health and other facilities.
In addition, it has built village access roads and created jobs for many local people.