Last week, the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) project ‘Improving Hydropower Decision-Making Processes in the Mekong’ presented the results of its research on five hydropower projects in Laos. The study found the impacts of decisions related to hydropower are correlated with the resettlement and compensation packages offered to affected communities, as well as the intended purpose of the dam. It also identified Laos’ Electricity Law, promulgated in 1997 and amended in 2008 and 2012, to be the primary hydropower development decision-making legislation.
The research results represent one component of the CPWF-Mekong project on ‘Improving Hydropower Decision-Making’, which conducted research activities in China, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The goal of the project was to improve the way in which decisions are made with respect to dam development, operation and function in the Mekong Region. In Laos, the project was led by the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences of the National University of Laos (NUOL).
Between September 2012 and October 2013, the NUOL team carried out qualitative research and quantitative research regarding Laos’ hydropower environment, specifically focusing on five hydropower projects: the Nam Ngum 1, Nam Mang 3, Nam Nhone, Nam Ngum 2 and Xayaburi dams. Following a review of relevant laws, regulations and newspapers and interviews with academic, experts, senior and local government officials and impact communities identified the Electricity Law of Laos as the primary decision-making legislation. Recent revisions to the law have decentralized decision-making power. Other relevant legislation and decrees including the Environmental Protection Law, Decree on Environmental Impact Assessment, Decree on Resettlement and Compensation of People Affected by Development Projects, and the Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin (1995) have contributed to hydropower decision-making in Laos. While many helpful and relevant hydropower regulations are in place, implementation of such regulations lags behind.
The project found a high correlation between the impacts of decisions related to hydropower and the level of compensation and resettlement offered to dam-affected communities. It also highlights some of the benefits that stand to be derived from hydropower development, including facilitation of infrastructure development, basic education opportunities for children, health care services and electricity.
The ‘Improving Hydropower Decision-Making’ project has developed a series of other outputs that contribute to its goal of improving decision-making. One tool, ‘The Basin Challenge’, is an interactive game that allows participants the opportunity to experience the challenges associated with developing a river basin. A series of five videos were also developed in conjunction with the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University to explore questions surrounding the opportunities, limitations and challenges of Thai hydropower development.
The Vientiane Times wrote an article on the project workshop. View the article below: