Vientiane Times, January 21, 2014
Construction of the Xayaboury Hydropower plant is up and running again after being temporarily halted by flooding in the middle of last month, and is now 21 percent complete.
Unseasonally heavy rainfall in the north of Laos last month caused the dam’s water level to suddenly increase, spilling over into the construction area.
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Mr Noulinh Sinbandhit and Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Mr Viraphonh Viravong visited the site at the end of last week, accompanied by officials and members of the media.
The project’s technical deputy director, Mr Rewat Suwanakitti, told visitors the incident was unusual and unexpected.
“However, it didn’t impact the construction and will not impact the overall time schedule,” Mr Rewat said.
The water level rapidly increased from December 16 to 19. It then took a further two weeks for it to return to normal.
“The two weeks was a small amount of time compared to the total period for construction, which is 90 months,” Mr Rewat said.
“Now everything is back to normal and the project is 21 percent complete.”
The delegates also visited resettlement villages to see if the people displaced and impacted by the dam were being properly compensated under
government regulations, and to ensure the project was helping them escape poverty by 2020.
According to the company 15 villages have been affected, of which six are in Xayaboury province and nine are in Luang Prabang province.
The project has led to seven villages being resettled and eight being relocated.
A total 694 new houses will be built to compensate for the 614 households displaced by the project. All up 3,095 people have been affected.
The delegation visited the new resettlement villages of Talan and Natoryai in Xayaboury province and Ban Neunsavang in Luang Prabang province.
“Through the visit and talking to the villagers, as well as from the evidence of the situation I have observed with my own eyes, we can see that the villagers’ lives have really improved,” Mr Noulin said.
The minister encouraged the villagers to speak out if they needed help or were facing any problems.
Neunsavang’s village chief, Mr Thongda Chanthavong said the village moved to the new area in February last year people had settled quite well.
He said employment in the construction of the dam and the training provision provided by the project had raised family incomes to a total of more than 9 billion kip, which is higher than it was at the old village.
Mr Viraphonh said sustainable income for villagers was a crucial objective of the project and he urged everyone to discuss and pay more attention to ensuring this.
Mr Soukan, the project’s resettlement consultant, said the project was strictly following laws and regulations pertaining to compensation for resettled villagers.
Five of the 15 villages have now been resettled, with the rest to be completed by 2015.
The project has provided resettled villages with land clearance, house construction, water systems, electricity, schools, a health care centre, a temple, a market, road access and other compensations.
It also provides training to help villagers in the new settlements learn skills in raising animals and agriculture.
Construction of the US$3.5-billion 1,285 MW Xayaboury hydropower plant, located on the mainstream of the Mekong River, began at the end of 2012.
Commercial operation is slated to begin in 2019. The pre-construction period ran from 2007 to 2012.
The dam’s operational phase covers 29 years of the concession agreement from 2019 to 2048, before ownership is transfered to the Lao government.
About 9,000 people are employed in the construciton of the dam. The company is looking to hire more as it estmates it needs over 10,000 labourers.
The project will create jobs for Lao people and the power it generates will be exported toThailand and domestic use earning Laos foreign reserves that can be spent reducing poverty.