World Bank Official Meets Resettled Nam Theun 2 Villagers

June 28, 2012
Vientiane Times

A World Bank official yesterday visited the Nam Theun 2 hydropower project in Khammuan province to see whether living conditions have improved for people who were displaced.

The World Bank, which supported Laos’ largest ever development project, had promised to improve the circumstances of people who abandoned their birthplace so the dam could be built.

“I did not visit the area before the project got under way but certainly from the pictures I was shown compared to the way the people are today shows there has been quite a difference to their standard of living,” World Bank Regional Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific, Ms Pamela Cox, said yesterday.

She spoke to local media at Wattay Domestic Airport shortly after returning from the Nam Theun 2 dam on the Nakai Plateau where she met with local authorities, management of the Nam Theun 2 Power Company and representatives of the communities that were relocated away from the project site.

Under the project agreement, in which the World Bank supports the government in its development endeavours, one objective is to double the income of the villagers who have been resettled.

Ms Cox said the villagers she met expressed their thanks to the project developers, who brought positive changes to their living conditions, adding that the community now had access to education, clean water and medical services.

When asked what needed to be done to make their living conditions even better, Ms Cox said the conditions were now good. However, she said that what the people really needed for a better future was education.

“If you look into the future of Laos, as the country is growing very fast what it needs is more and more educated people, those with skills that can boost the economy, and I think it is wonderful that now they have a school for grades one to six and families are starting to discuss how to send their children to secondary school,” she said.

Ms Cox said the World Bank ha d no plans to finance more hydropower projects in Laos but would continue to support the country to increase its ability to manage resource-based industries, which can help to ensure sustainable development of the economy.

She said she had discussions with the Nam Theun 2 Power Company on how to increase the usage of Lao engineers so they can eventually take over the management aspects of the project.

The bank can work with the Lao government on how to plan hydropower development projects and how to assess the environmental and social impacts, she said.

The World Bank this week launched its new country partnership strategy, aiming to help the Lao government to achieve three development objectives – competitiveness and connectivity, sustainable natural resource management, and inclusive growth.

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