Govt Demonstrates Transparency Over Xayaboury Dam

By Vientiane Times, 15 August, 2013

At least 10 foreign and local journalists plan to visit the under-construction Xayaboury dam this week to see firsthand the environmentally-friendly technology being used to develop the run-of-river dam.

The visit is scheduled to take place on August 15-18 and will bring to more than 20 the number of groups that have visited the dam site and resettlement villages so far, with more than 10 of the delegations consisting of foreign diplomats and journalists.

The latest is being organised by the government and the project’s shareholding developers to demonstrate the government’s commitment to develop the 1,285MW hydropower plant as a ‘transparent’ dam.

The government defines the concept of a transparent dam as giving the opportunity for interested parties to visit the construction site and get answers to their questions from experts, to address any issues they have or concerns that may arise.

“There is nothing to hide. We are developing a dam with sustainable features based on the government’s policy,” said the government coordinator for the project, Mr Khamchanh Pharagnok, who is Deputy Director General of the Energy Business Department, Ministry of Energy and Mines.

The journalists scheduled to travel today to the US$3.5 billion dam come from the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Canada and the Philippines, along with six local reporters. Experts will explain the sustainable development of the dam and the group will then visit the purpose-built villages where local communities are being relocated to make way for the dam.

Foreign journalists who have previously visited the dam came from Thailand, China’s Xinhua, CCTV and Japan’s Asahi Shimbun.

Last weekend the government and the developers organised a trip for the Honorary Consul of Laos to Switzerland, Swiss national Dr Guido Kappeli, who visited the dam and the newly-resettled village of Natoryai.

Following his visit, Dr Kappeli voiced support for the sustainable development of the Xayaboury dam and the Lao government’s sustainable development of hydropower as a whole. Since the government announced its intention to build the dam based on the principle of sustainability, it has taken action accordingly.

Two internationally-recognised consulting companies – Poyry of Switzerland and Compagnie Nationale du Rhone of France – have been employed to oversee construction and ensure the dam is built in line with internationally accepted standards, particularly in relation to sediment flow and fish passage.

The lead engineer of Xayaboury Power, Prat Nantasen, confirmed that all the sediment will be flushed downstream and fish passage facilities will function properly.

Poyry’s senior project manager, Mr Rene Schmidiger, backed the comment, saying he was confident the fish passage and sediment flushing facilities will work well.

Regarding social issues, the developer’s representative in charge of resettlement and livelihood improvement affairs, Mr Soukanh Phongsavath, said the developers have enshrined the government’s compensation policy that commits to providing a better livelihood for displaced communities.

Officials have said the commitments made are not just empty promises, but that all their activities are being carried out accordingly and are open and transparent. This involves allowing foreign visitors and the media to see firsthand what is happening on the ground.

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