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Aus. Senate calls for greater scrutiny of Laos dam

Media Release: For immediate release, Thursday March 17, 2005.

Australian Senate calls for greater scrutiny of Laos dam

Nam Theun 2 Dam would be a social and environmental “horror story”

A Senate motion raising serious concerns about the likely impacts of a planned giant dam in Laos has been welcomed by the independent aid monitoring organisation AID/WATCH today.

The Senate has asked the World Bank to more closely study the Nam Theun 2 dam’s many inadequacies and potential negative impacts on poor communities and delicate ecosystems before deciding in the coming days whether the dam merits the bank’s backing. The dam has been the subject of years of campaigning by local communities and international environmental organisations.

“If it goes ahead, the Nam Theun 2 dam will be a horror story,” said AID/WATCH campaigner Sean Healy. “It will impoverish already poor communities, it will push species closer to extinction and it will further exclude Laotians from a chance of real development, and all for very little. The World Bank should learn from the spectacular failure of other dams it has backed, including in Laos, and not provide any support for Nam Theun 2.”

The Nam Theun 2 dam, on a tributary of the Mekong river in Laos, would inundate a plateau which is home to 6200 indigenous people and is the habitat for several endangered species, and would severely damage the livelihoods of some 150,000 mainly poor villagers living along the Xe Bang Fai River. The dam would export electricity to neighbouring Thailand but the economic benefits for Laos’ poor are highly suspect, especially given the Lao government’s poor record on governance, community consultation and human rights.

The Nam Theun 2 dam is shaping up to be a test case for the World Bank, which has recently signalled its intent to boost its involvement in “high risk, high return” infrastructure projects such as dams. The Bank has so far largely ignored the results of international reviews, such as the World Commission on Dams.

“It’s a very positive step that the Australian Senate has scrutinised Nam Theun 2. If the international community acts quickly, it can still prevent a disaster in the making,” said Healy.

AID/WATCH is a not for profit organisation monitoring and campaigning on overseas aid policies and programs. We work to ensure aid funding reaches the right people, communities and their environments.

Further, detailed information on the Nam Theun 2 dam can be found at: www.irn.org

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