Laos: villagers brace for relocation as dam project moves forward

, by Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

Ting does not know exactly how the proposed Xayaburi hydropower dam will change his life, but he knows he will be forced to leave his village if it goes ahead.

"I don’t have any power over this decision," said Ting, 50, who like other Lao villagers, goes by only one name. He earns a living ferrying passengers across the Mekong River in a motorized skiff and lives in Pakmon, a village of 150 families just 30km upstream from the proposed US$3.8 billion dam in the impoverished Xayaburi Province.

In June, a Lao official came to Pakmon and said any families who lived below 275m - the projected height of the dam’s reservoir - would be forced to relocate.

Now Ting and other villagers, many of whom earn no more than US$500 per year, are anxious to see if the dam will be built, and how their main livelihoods - fishing and farming - will be affected.

According to the US environmental group International Rivers, more than 2,100 people will be forcibly resettled and 200,000 people will be affected.

"Given the Laos government’s legacy of poor planning and uncompensated losses, the communities that will be forcibly resettled by the dam are likely to suffer greatly," Ame Trandem, a spokesperson for International Rivers, told IRIN.

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