Evaluating A Decade of Development Banking on Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Dam


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Evaluating A Decade of Development Banking on Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Dam

What: Public forum on development bank's support for Mekong dams, 10 years after Nam Theun 2

Where: Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (Penthouse, Maneeya Center, 518/5 Ploenchit Road, Bangkok)

When: Friday 2nd October, 2015 at 10 AM


  • Wittoon Permpongsacharoen, Director of the Mekong Energy and Ecology Network and prominent Thai energy analyst
  • Bruce Shoemaker, independent researcher focusing on the livelihood changes of people living downstream of Nam Theun 2
  • Representatives of civil society organizations that have monitored the development and operation of Nam Theun 2 for nearly two decades

Bangkok, Thailand – In the lead up to the World Bank’s Annual Meeting in Lima, Peru, and in the midst of preparations for upcoming international climate change negotiations in Paris (COP 21), researchers and analysts are issuing a warning against blindly upholding the World Bank’s flagship hydropower project in Laos, Nam Theun 2, as a sustainable example of clean energy. To discuss their concerns and reflections on this project, a public forum on October 2nd, at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Bangkok will be jointly hosted by International Rivers, Mekong Watch, Focus on the Global South and the NGO Forum on the ADB.

As Wittoon Permpongsacharoen, Director of the Mekong Energy and Ecology Network explains, “We are holding this forum in Bangkok to help raise awareness that the Thai people, as consumers of the energy generated by Nam Theun 2, are not so-called winners in this situation. Our research shows that in reality, plans for Nam Theun 2 were based on over-estimated future demand projections for Thailand, and that when Nam Theun 2 started to generate electricity for Thailand in 2010, there was already substantial excess of power here. Making Nam Theun 2 a viable investment has required heavy subsidization from the Thai public purse.”

Independent researcher Bruce Shoemaker, who co-published a study about the Xe Bang Fai River in 2001 and conducted a follow-up study 13 years later, notes, "Several years after the completion of Nam Theun 2, we found significant changes downstream. The project has resulted in severe impacts to many of the people once dependent on the river for their livelihoods. Even though the program for downstream compensation is upheld by the international banks as a unique mitigation effort, this prematurely terminated intervention was short-lived and underfunded. Based on our research, Nam Theun 2’s Downstream Program has conclusively failed to restore the livelihoods of the very population it was meant to help.”

According to Tanya Lee, Lao Program Coordinator for International Rivers, “By advancing the Nam Theun 2 Dam, international development banks have assumed an active role in spurring on the current destructive rush to build dams on both the Mekong mainstream and its tributaries. Both the World Bank Group, along with Asian Development Bank, are promoting hydropower interests in the region with technical assistance grants and funding for transmission line projects, as well as direct financing for large-scale dams. After one decade of investing in Nam Theun 2, it is time to undertake a realistic evaluation of this flagship project.”

As Shalmali Guttal, Executive Director of Focus on the Global South points out, “At the upcoming COP 21 in Paris, Nam Theun 2 Power Company’s biggest shareholder, Électricité de France, is an official conference sponsor and is attempting to greenwash itself as an environmentally responsible corporation. But large dams are not clean energy and have significant ecological footprints. The damage wrought by Nam Theun 2 in Laos clearly shows the complicity of dam proponents, such as Électricité de France, and its financiers in destroying critical watersheds relied upon by millions of people, not only in the Mekong but also across South Asia, Latin America and Africa.

In 2005, the World Bank approved the provision of US $153 million for the development of Nam Theun 2, while the Asian Development Bank offered $90 million to the Government of Laos and the Nam Theun 2 Power Company. The European Investment Bank and France’s Agence Française de Développement also pledged millions of dollars towards the project. Nam Theun 2 began operations in 2010, displacing an estimated 6,300 indigenous people to make way for the 450km2 reservoir and affecting more than 110,000 people downstream along the Xe Bang Fai River, a tributary of the Mekong River. Over 90% of the electricity generated is exported to Thailand.

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