Vientiane Times, February 28, 2013
Laos can learn from the experiences of neighbouring countries in seeking solutions to social impacts and community resettlement issues before undertaking further large-scale hydropower projects, a senior official has said.
“From 2009-15 Laos expects to build 26 hydropower plants each of which can generate energy of over 50MW. These projects will certainly have environmental and social impacts, and local communities will have to be properly resettled,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs of the National University of Laos (NUOL), Associate Prof. Dr Phetsamone Khounsavath.
The comments were made at a meeting in Vientiane yesterday attended by about 40 technical officials from line departments of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment. Also present were officials working in areas related to the resettling of villagers displaced by various development projects.
“China has more than 60 years experience in resettling some 20 million people who were displaced by energy generation projects. It is hoped that Lao technical staff can learn from our presenter Professor Shi Guoqing and apply these lessons to practical situations in Laos,” Associate Prof. Dr Phetsamone said.
Social impact assessments and the management of resettlement activities were hot topics at the meeting, which was led by guest lecturers from Hohai University in China.
Prof. Shi Guoqing is Director of the Social Development Institute, Director of the National Research Centre for Resettlement, and Dean of the Public Administration School at Hohai University.
Associate Prof. Dr Phetsamone said the Lao government has drafted laws and decrees on environmental impact assessments and these have been widely disseminated from central to local levels.
“In carrying out social impact assessments and managing the resettlement of local communities, there are advantages and disadvantages that still need to be improved upon,” he said. Prior to the seminar, some technical staff together with Prof. Shi Guoqing visited Phonsavath village in Feuang district, Vientiane province. The residents of this village had moved there after having to leave their former homes to make way for the Nam Ngum 2 hydropower project.
The seminar was co-organised by NUOL’s Faculty of Social Sciences and the Environment and Social Impact Assessment Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment. It was financed by the World Bank and the Environment Protection Fund.