If the project, being developed by a consortium of Lao, Thai, French and Italian investors, goes ahead, the impoverished Lao economy stands to gain millions in revenue from the electricity generated, most of which will be exported to Thailand.
The Bank, which has not yet made a decision on whether it will provide a partial risk guarantee for the project, says it is interested in Nam Theun II’s potential – if properly designed, prepared, and implemented – to benefit the Lao people by increasing revenues for poverty reduction and environmental conservation.
‘These workshops are just the latest step in what has been – for the World Bank at least – an unprecedented process of research, consultation, and disclosure of information on a single project,’ said Ian Porter, Country Director for Lao PDR, speaking at the first workshop in Bangkok. ‘The intensity of this effort reflects our strong desire to ensure that the proposed project would deliver real, durable benefits for the people of Laos. That is the only basis on which we would support it.’
However, critics claim that the project’s assorted issues – environmental and social impacts, resettlement, fisheries, downstream impacts, revenue management, conservation area protection plan, financing, compensation, and livelihoods – make the project too big, too complicated, and/or too risky to warrant the Bank’s support.
Speaking at the Bangkok workshop, the Lao permanent secretary of the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts, Somboune Manolom, said the Nam Theun II project was the most viable development scheme for the eradication of poverty in the country.
The Lao government expects the project will raise living conditions and enable people to earn more than the current average of US$1.5 (Bt62) per day, he said. From electricity sales to Thailand, the Nam Theun II project is expected to generate an estimated revenue of $1.8B over the 25-year concession period.
For further information on the workshops, please visit www.worldbank.org/la.