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16 Feb 2021

Richard Finney, Radio Free Asia

Laos: Namtha 1 Dam resettled villagers report water shortages and landslide risks as they wait for new land and jobs

"Lao Villagers Relocated From China-Backed Dam Lack Land to Grow Crops" 3 February 2021

Lao villagers resettled in mountaintop towns to make way for construction the China-backed Namtha 1 Dam in Luang Namtha province in northern Laos have been given houses and other facilities but now have no land to farm, leaving them unable to make a living in their new homes, Lao sources say.

More than 10,000 villagers displaced from 37 villages in Luang Namtha and Bokeo provinces have now been moved in a resettlement drive beginning in 2016 and ending last year, and are living in homes in 11 new villages on high ground. [...]

Also speaking to RFA, an official in Luang Namtha’s Agriculture and Forestry Department said that authorities are looking for land suitable for farming that they can distribute.

Villagers moved away from the area of the dam are also facing water shortages, especially during the country’s dry season, with one relocated villager saying, “We haven’t had enough water ever since we moved here, and the water we do have isn’t treated. We have to boil it before drinking it.” [...]

Landslides also pose a danger to resettlement areas, with a road and parts of the foundation of one village, the Nam Ou 4 Dam Resettlement Village in Phongsaly province, cracking after heavy rains in August 2019, and several houses threatened with collapse.

According to its website, the developer of the Namtha 1 Dam, the Namtha 1 Power Co. Ltd., is a joint venture between China Southern Power Grid International Co. Ltd., which owns 80 percent of the project, and Electricite du Lao, with a 20 percent share. [...]

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