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

Energy, mining projects flouting rules

Vientiane Times, 1st December 2018


Licences issued by authorities for some investment projects are not in line with the official plan and the appropriate steps are not always followed, the sector’s leading official said on Monday.
Minister of Energy and Mines Dr Khammany Inthirath disclosed many obstacles and challenges relating to the management of the sector, when addressing the National Assembly this week.
Dr Khammany blamed various sectors for not taking responsibility when difficulties arose. He said nobody responded when there was a problem and that troublesome issues were instead passed on to other agencies.
Inspections by energy and mining authorities identified many management difficulties. These included issues around booking projects, selling projects and duplicating permission for a project between various levels of government and issuing licences to ineffective projects.
He said licences were given to projects without following the regulations or the laws in some cases. At the same time, the approval procedures for technical, environmental and social studies were not undertaken effectively and inspections were not systematic.
Previous projects had lacked transparency and were uncompetitive when it came to mechanisms for selecting developers, the minister observed.
These factors had led to rising public complaints to the ministry with calls for more responsibility to be taken to protect the interests of the people and country.
NA member for Phongsaly province, Mr Chanpao Soudavong, urged the government to closely monitor projects in the mining sector.
He supported these projects because they benefited socio-economic development but cautioned against negative impacts on local residents.
Farmers in some of the province’s villages had lost the land on which they grew tea and cardamom, and approach roads had been damaged.
So far, farmers had received little or no compensation and locals had raised this issue several times at provincial People’s Council meetings, he said.
Authorities face difficulties in carrying out inspections of projects in Phongsaly province because some companies operating there do not provide reports while others have virtually no infrastructure in place.
Mr Chanpao also raised the issue of the adverse impact of a hydropower project being proposed on the Namlae River in the province’s Bountai district.
Surveys have been undertaken but no development has begun. Ten villages are located within the proposed project area and seven are suffering because people are not allowed to plant crops. Local residents and the authorities want to know if this project will go ahead or not.
Mr Chanpao urged authorities in the sector concerned to update everyone about plans for the project.
According to the plan drawn up by the Ministry of Energy and Mines, one of the main focuses is improved coordination between central and local levels to ensure there is consensus among all parties and that projects are implemented smoothly.

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