Working towards greater community control over land, forests and natural resources

Don Sahong dam critical for development of southern Laos

Vientiane Times, November 3, 2015.

The government regards the Don Sahong hydropower project as the key driver for socio-economic development and poverty reduction in southern Laos. Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Mr Viraphonh Viravong told Vientiane Times yesterday that the power generated by the US$500-million dam will be used to electrify areas currently without power in the southern provinces, while the remainder will be exported.
Located in Khong district, Champassak province, construction of the run-of-river dam is expected to start at the end of this month. The government has gone through all the processes stipulated in the 1995 agreements including the notification and prior consultation processes for the project and has informed its neighbours about related developments. Most of the agreements concerning the dam have been signed including a concession agreement and a purchase agreement, which has been signed with Electricite du Laos (EDL).
The Governor of Khong district, Mr Sanan Siphaphommachan, said villagers were waiting for work on the 260MW dam to begin as they believed it would bring development to their area. “I believe this project will not only be beneficial for community development but will also generate job opportunities for local people to alleviate their poverty,” he s aid. The construction of a US$7-million bridge leading to the site is now complete but it will take another 18 months to complete road access. Mr Sanan said the bridge would not only facilitate the transport of goods and people but also improve tourism activities in the district. The project developer will build new roads on Don Sadam and Don Sahong. In addition, the project will provide job training for local people, notably in crop growing, animal husbandry and fish processing, as well as capacity building among the local community. “The project developer is committed to helping us to build schools and hospitals for local people, pending the start of construction,” he said.
Project official in charge of the community programme, Mr Bounpheng Duangmala, said “Over the past year, we have built toilets and restored schools to create better conditions for children to learn.” Mr Bounpheng said 42 families from six villages have been taken for job training in fields such as mechanics and welding. “We plan to build a new school, library and market for people to sell their products,” he said, adding that villagers affected by the project will be compensated with new concrete houses.
With a concession period of 25 years, it is expected the dam will generate about 2,000 GWh of electricity per year. It is expected to start commercial operation in 2019 or 2020.

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