From: Rungrawee C. Pinyorat, Associated Press
Published March 15, 2005 12:00 AM

Environmentalists Call on World Bank to Abandon Laotian Dam Project

BANGKOK, Thailand — About 100 environmental activists and villagers burned an effigy of World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn in the Thai capital Monday, demanding that the bank scrap a US$1.3 billion (euro969 million) dam project in neighboring Laos.


Construction of the Nam Theun 2 dam is set to begin if the World Bank's board of directors approves it next month. The protesters claimed it will ruin the lives of about 6,000 Laotian villagers who will be uprooted.


The dam will generate 1,070 megawatts of electricity, 95 percent of which will be exported to Thailand, earning Laos a projected US$200 million (euro165 million) in annual revenue for 25 years.


The Laotian government argues the income is needed to bring the country out of poverty.


"This project has been extensively studied for its social and environmental impacts," said Illangovan Patchamuthu, the World Bank's environmental affairs coordinator. He said it includes plans for improving the welfare of those affected.


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Aviva Imhof, a U.S.-based activist from the International Rivers Network environmentalist group, charged that the project "is going to produce nothing but hardship for the affected people."


She said the villagers to be displaced are subsistence farmers who currently grow rice, but the land where they are to be resettled is not suitable for cultivating the staple crop.


Source: Associated Press


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