Vientiane Times, 14 August 2013
Developers of the Xayaboury dam have promised to ensure the ‘well-being’ of villagers who have to relocate to make way for the construction of the run-of-river hydroelectric dam.
“We have enshrined the government’s compensation policy in our plans, which commits us to offer a better livelihood to those people affected,” said a developer representative in charge of resettlement and livelihood improvement affairs, Mr Soukanh Phongsavath.
Mr Soukanh spoke to reporters on Saturday during a visit to the newly-resettled village of Natoryai in Xayaboury district, Xayaboury province.
Some 1,974 people from seven villages have moved or will move to the new locations. People in three of the seven villages have already moved to new homes. Another 1,126 residents of eight villages are required to move to higher ground but will remain within their former communities.
“The newcomers, formerly isolated in their old communities with no roads, electricity or access to clean water, are now connected to roads, electricity and water in their new homes,” Mr Soukanh said.
“Those who used to live in flimsy grass-roofed huts with a bamboo floor have been given brand new wooden houses in the new villages.”
To help the newcomers adjust to their environment, the project is providing them with food, including rice, for a period of one year. They have also been offered electricity and water free of charge for 12 months, Mr Soukanh said.
In addition, the project has organised a number of training sessions on cash crop cultivation and animal husbandry to help the villagers make a living.
The villagers are familiar with a nature-based lifestyle – the old fashioned practice the government describes as “unstable living practices” such as low-earning shifting cultivation, said Xayaboury district Governor Ms Bounphak Inthapanya.
“They are not familiar with commercially based practices so we need to train them,” she said.
Animal breeding stock, animal feed and crop seeds and seedlings have been provided to the villagers.
According to the governor, crops grown and animals raised by the villagers are being sold at a market set up for the project to feed the more than 7,000 workers employed on the dam construction.
“Many villagers are now selling their produce at the market,” Ms Bounphak said.
In addition, priority is given to the displaced villagers to work for the project so they have permanent jobs to help them earn an adequate income and can better their living standards.
Mr Dor Khaosa-addy, a father of four who moved from his old village of Houaysui to Nartoryai 19 months ago, said his two sons and two sons-in-law formerly worked as daily-paid workers but are now working full time on the project and earn stable incomes.
“They earn about 2.2 million kip (US$280) a month each,” he said, adding that most young people in the village work for the project.
Mr Dor himself undertook training on catfish, poultry and pig rearing and plans to rear pigs and poultry in rubber tree plantations. “I am now rearing catfish in the village pond,” he said.
He added that the project sent technical staff to his plot to help with planting rubber trees as well as hiring workers to dig the holes in which the trees will be planted.
Despite the compensation the project has given, for houses, residential and agricultural land, crops and industrial trees, Mr Soukanh said the villagers still own the crops and trees in their old villages and can continue to harvest until 2019 when the dam is expected to be filled.
“This means the villagers can get double for a few years,” Mr Soukanh said.
He admitted that some villagers are still unlikely to be self-reliant as they are not accustomed to such commercially based practices. However, he pledged that the project will ‘not leave them behind, but will help them to become self-reliant’.