The people and their river, the World Bank and its dam : revisiting the Xe Bang Fai River in Laos / Ian G. Baird, Bruce P. Shoemaker, Kanokwan Manorom

Sustained criticism in the 1980s and 1990s resulted in a decline of World Bank funding for large hydropower dams. The Bank subsequently participated in the World Commission on Dams process, which set higher global standards for hydropower dams. In 2005, the World Bank agreed to support the Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project (NT2) in Laos, and in 2010 NT2 began diverting water from the Theun River into the Xe Bang Fai River. The World Bank has promoted NT2 as a successful model of poverty alleviation, justifying support for other large dams. Assessing actual impacts and associated mitigation and compensation is thus timely. This article presents qualitative field research from early 2014 about the downstream impacts of NT2 in the Xe Bang Fai River basin and a description and analysis of efforts to compensate for losses. The authors consider the situation with the assistance of baseline data collected in 2001, before project approval. Findings suggest that NT2 has had a significant negative impact, including on the livelihoods of large numbers of people dependent on the river's resources. Many of those impacted view compensation and mitigation efforts as having failed to adequately address their losses. Further independent investigation and documentation are needed. [Abstract]