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13 Apr 2022

Roseanne Gerin, Radio Free Asia (USA)

Laos: Dams built by China Datang and Sinohydro worry villagers as compensation and relocation packages remain uncertain

"As Lao dam plans progress, farmers worry about compensation for lost land" 13 April 2022

Chinese developers are preparing to begin work on two major hydropower dams to be built on the Mekong River in Laos, projects government officials hope will bring the impoverished country closer to its goal of become the battery of Southeast Asia.

But compensation and relocation packages for villagers affected by the massive infrastructure projects are still up in the air.

The China-backed Pak Beng Dam will be built in the Pak Beng district of Oudomxay province in northern Laos, while the Pak Lay Dam will be built in the Pak Lay district of northern Laos’ Xayaburi province. [...]

NGOs and local communities have warned that the Pak Beng and Pak Lay dams will harm the Mekong’s ecosystem and the livelihoods of people living along the river. The Pak Beng is expected to displace around 6,700 people living in 25 villages, and the Pak Lay Dam is expected to force the relocation of more than 1,000 residents from 20 villages, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

Though the Lao government sees power generation as a way to boost the country’s economy, the projects are controversial because of their environmental impact, displacement of villagers and questionable financial arrangements. [...]

China Datang Overseas Investment, the developer of the Pak Beng Dam, has begun moving machinery to prepare the site and to set up workers’ camps in anticipation of a power purchase agreement (PPA) to be signed in May with Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), an official at the Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines told RFA on April 8. [...]

Meanwhile, China’s Sinohydro Corp. has begun to prepare for construction on the U.S. $2 billion Pak Lay Dam, an official at the Energy and Mines Department of Xayaburi province told RFA on April 1.

“They’ve started, but the relocation of the families has not,” he said. “As soon as the power purchase agreement is signed, they [Sinohydro] will bring all the equipment and materials to the dam site.” [...]

A resident of Phaliap village in Pak Lay district confirmed that neither Lao government officials nor company representatives have formally spoken with villagers.

The preconstruction phase is moving ahead, but Lao and Sinohydro officials have not yet met with the residents, he said. [...]

Part of the following timelines

Laos: Compensation and relocation packages remain uncertain for Chinese dam projects

Laos: Villagers concerned over Pak Lay dam as relocation and compensation plans remain unclear

Laos: Pak Beng dam