LAOS: Not Even Faint Praise for the Dams

Resources and Environment has also entered a partnership with the International Finance Corporation to create more sustainable ways to promotes socio-economic development. With this new partnership, the Vientiane Times has reported that Laos has the potential to build more than 100 dams on the Mekong River. Vientiane Times also interviewed Deputy Minster of Finance Santiphab Promivhane about the bilateral arrangement who said, “The partnership with IFC marks our commitment to promoting integrated water resources management and best practice environmental and social standards in the hydro-power sector through revising laws and regulations as well as improving our capacity to enforce them”.

Despite all the positive reviews from the Vientiane Times, a newspaper that portrays the government in a favorable light, other media outlets and locals have expressed concern about the partnership and the development of the new dams and hydro-power structures.

According to Radio Free Asia, the government has disregarded the opinions of the people and is exploiting the community rather than helping them. The dams will be used to sell hydroelectric power to the surrounding communities.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia, Ittiphon Khamsouk, a Thai representative of the eight provinces along the river, claims that the projects have not been fully evaluated and have not been fully approved by the community. In particular, a 3.5 billion U.S. dollar Xayaburi hydropower dam has received backlash from many locals and protesters.

The Vientiane Times does not have any coverage on the opinions of the community at all and has dismissed villagers’ complaints that fishing and agriculture have already been difficult with current dams, and the construction of new dams will only make the problem worse.

In an article in Pattaya mail, a group of 70 activists floated around boats this past Thursday demanding that the Laos government and surrounding countries call off the dam construction as they are not considering the possible impact on the community. The activists and locals hope that the Laos Government creates a more comprehensive plan and explores other options.

In the meantime, are the Vientiane Times and the government unfairly disregarding the opinions of the community, or is it the community that is over reacting? Will they be able to reach a compromise?

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