Villagers in northern Laos who will be displaced by the massive Luang Prabang Dam project are demanding five times higher compensation than the government is offering, saying flooding from the dam will wipe out their farmland.
Residents of 12 villages in Oudomxay Province’s Nga District have also complained to local officials about the location of the new homes and resettlement villages that would be built for them.
The 1,460-megawatt dam will be one of several cascading dams built on the Mekong River. It will affect 2,130 households and is part of the Lao government’s controversial economic plan to be Southeast Asia’s battery, exporting electricity from more than 50 large and small-scale dams on the river and its tributaries.
“We’ll be poorer, much poorer because we’ll lose our land, especially the ones near the Mekong River,” one Lath Hath Village resident told Radio Free Asia. “If they pay us the offered compensation, we’ll have no land to farm. Furthermore, we won’t be able to fish or even to run our boats along the river anymore. We’ll lose our vegetable gardens on the river bank as well.”
Oudomxay provincial authorities are offering 30 million kip (US$1,780) per hectare of residential and farm land. But most residents are demanding five times that amount, or about 150 million kip (US$8,900) per hectare.
“That’s the fair and market value compensation,” another villager said.
Pre-construction has already begun
Village relocations will begin in either 2024 or 2025, and construction on access roads, bridges and workers camps has already begun at the dam site, a Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines official said.
“We know that the villagers are calling on the provincial people’s council to recalculate the compensation for their homes, land and fruit trees, and to redesign their new homes,” the official said. “Right now, the council is looking at their demands.”
A Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines official told RFA on Friday that the power purchase agreements for the sale of electricity generated by the dam to Thailand and Vietnam will be signed in June.
“As for the construction of the dam, we’re ready; as soon as the PPA is signed, we can start the construction right away,” the official said.
The dam will sit about 16 miles (25 kilometers) north of the town of Luang Prabang. Last year, UNESCO expressed concerns over how it could impact the town, the once royal capital of Laos that was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1995.
UNESCO has asked the Lao government and the developer of the dam to do a Heritage Impact Assessment. Recently, the dam developer indicated that the HIA is still being conducted.
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