Vientiane Times, 22 July 2013
Lao officials have praised the concept of Xayaboury dam, which is being developed in a sustainable manner and pledged to explain the environmentally-friendly technique concept to interested outsiders.
The comments were made after officials from ministries and provinces across the country visited the dam site on Friday, where they learned about the techniques being used to develop the run-off-river dam.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Alounkeo Kittikhoun, led the officials who were participating in a meeting on Asean community building held in Xayaboury province, on a visit to the dam site.
“We are delighted to have visited the dam site first hand and learnt it is being developed using a nature-based technique,” he announced after viewing some related video footage.
The video footage showed how facilities will work to enable fish and sentiment flow through the dam downstream. It also demonstrates how local people’s fishing boats and cargo ships with a maximum weight of up to 500 tonnes can pass up and down through the dam.
Impressed with what he saw, Mr Alounkeo described it as a ‘nature-based technique.’“ We will continue to explain it,” (the dam) to other parties including outside parties.”
The deputy minister said the Lao government has been doing its best to address concerns raised by any parties, particularly those of its downstream neighbours.
The dam developers have hired internationally-recognised companies as the project consultants in an effort to ensure the dam is developed is a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner, said Mr Somphith Keovichith, Chief of Division of Project Development at the Department of Energy Business, Ministry of Energy and Mines.
The consul tant companies hired to oversee dam design and construction are Finnish consulting firm Poyry Group and also Compagnie Nationale du Rhone of France.
Hiring the two consultants has affirmed and demonstrated the Lao government’s stance it has announced to develop environmentally and socially sustainable and responsible dams.
From the social perspective, the project has committed to sustainable-based resettlement for affected people by providing residential and agricultural plots with training on planting and animal husbandry techniques as well as building houses for them.
Priority is also given to the affected villagers when recruiting the labour force to work on dam construction, according to the project’s Public Relations Advisory Assistant Khamkhong Kongvongsa.
Unlike natural resources or mines, Mr Alounkeo said, it needs to be recognised that hydroelectricity – one of the greenest and cleanest sources of energy generation, will never be exhausted.
“In our meeting, participants agreed that hydroelectricity and tourism are the two sectors that Laos boasts potential to pursue its sustainable development,” he said during the visit.
Director General of the Tourism Development Department, Mr Soun Manivong, who accompanied the group, said he was convinced that the Xayabouly Dam will be developed in an environmentally friendly manner.
He stated that the dam site boasts high potential to be developed as a tourist attraction, considering the surrounding mountains with dense forest. “I am thinking of working with the provincial Information, Culture and Tourism Department to explore how we can promote tourism in this area,” he told the Vientiane Times.
“But we need to receive agreement from the government and the project developers if we are to be allowed to develop the area as a tourist attraction.”
The visit by the officials to the dam site is the latest one the government has organised, after prior tours by delegations from foreign countries and non-government organisations, showing the government’s commitment to develop what it describes as a ‘transparent dam’.
According to officials, the US$3.5 billion hydropower plant is currently about 13 percent complete and is scheduled to be commissioned in 2019.
During its 29 year concession period, the 1,285MW hydropower plant will generate revenue for Laos in the vicinity of US$ 4 billion.
Officials said not only Laos will benefit from the dam, but also the purchasing country as it will enable the importer to lessen its dependence on energy produced from dirtier sources.