News / 2 April 2015

10 years after: 'Nam Theun 2 dam' has not delivered its promises

Ten years after the start of the construction of the Nam Theun 2 dam in Central Laos, it is clear that this mega project has disastrous impacts on people and their environment. The project  - originally the flagship of the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) - did not achieve its intended development goals. In a press release which was sent out this week, Both ENDS and partner organisations call on these multilateral banks to withdraw from large scale hydro dams such as Nam Theun 2. The dam, which became operational in 2010, has profound negative effects on local communities, while they do not benefit from it.

People and their environment pay the bill

The benefits the dam was supposed to bring to local people were not earth-shattering in the first place. People who were forced to move because of the dam, would be compensated. Furthermore, certain areas would be restored and protected. But while more than 90% of the electricity generated by the dam is exported to Thailand, local communities have not  benefited at all from the proceeds. To the contrary: the project displaced thousands of people and caused severe damage to more than one hundred thousand people downstream.  The dam has flooded low-lying paddy fields, has led to decreasing fish stocks and to health problems such as rashes due to deteriorated water quality. Moreover, the affected communities have been offered no alternative sources of income, while this was agreed upon before the start of the project. Out of sheer necessity, many villagers seek refuge in illegal logging and poaching wild animals for trade.


Who benefits?

The impact of the Nam Theun 2 is exemplary for large hydropower projects in the Mekong basin. Practice usually shows that large dams are very unfavorable for people living in its surroundings: they lead to increased poverty instead of prosperity, they limit access to natural resources and they force people to move. Instead of involving local people in decision-making on this type of project, affected communities and human rights defenders are often being threatened and arrested to be kept silent.


What does Both ENDS do?

Both ENDS works closely together with partner organisations such as International Rivers, to expose the enormous negative impacts of Nam Theun 2. Together we encourage multilateral banks to publicly acknowledge the damage that Nam Theun 2 has caused, and to take responsibility for it. They should withdraw from other large-scale hydropower projects planned in the Mekong region. Both ENDS also emphasizes the importance of the participation of local communities in the decision making on the way the Mekong basin is being managed, to ensure that this is done in a sustainable way.


Read the press release.



Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Fredrik Thomessen

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