World Bank Board Approves Nam Theun 2, Marks Start to Ill–Conceived "High–Risk" Strategy

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The World Bank Board of Directors voted today to approve the Nam Theun 2 dam in Laos. Nam Theun 2 is the first major dam to be supported by the World Bank since it announced its intention to ramp up lending for large dams and other “high–risk” big infrastructure projects in 2003.

Aviva Imhof, Campaigns Director of International Rivers, comments:

“Laos is poor and in desperate need of development. The country cannot afford a project like Nam Theun 2, which will bring more benefits to the Lao government elite and foreign consultants than Laos’ poor. We fear for the lives of the tens of thousands of poor Laotian farmers who will lose land, fisheries and other resources as a result of the project.

“This regrettable decision is a worrying start for the World Bank’s new high–risk water strategy. International Rivers will closely monitor Nam Theun 2 to ensure that affected people get adequately compensated for their losses. The onus is now on the World Bank to prove that it can honor its commitments to the Lao people.”

The Asian Development Bank’s Board of Directors will vote on the project on April 4, and the European Investment Bank will make a decision shortly thereafter. Construction on the $1.3 billion project has already begun but will be stepped up after financial close in May 2005. The project is supposed to be completed by 2009.