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New research reveals harm to Indigenous Peoples near Nam Theun 2 Project in Laos

Forum for Development Studies

On January 4, 2017, the Forum for Development Studies published a new article by Kanokwan Manorom, Ian Baird and Bruce Shoemaker titled, “The World Bank, Hydropower-based Poverty Alleviation and Indigenous Peoples: On-the-Ground Realities in the Xe Bang Fai River Basin of Laos.”

This article provides more detail on the project’s impacts following earlier articles on the situation along the Xe Bang Fai River published in 2015 by the same researcher team. Two of the researchers had previously conducted a comprehensive river based livelihoods study on the Xe Bang Fai in 2001, before Nam Theun 2 was constructed. This provided an opportunity to compare the situation on the river before and after the project was constructed.

The Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project in Laos has – despite being considered a model project by its main international supporter, the World Bank– had major social and environmental impacts on downstream areas in the Xe Bang Fai River Basin. This new article details how NT2 has been especially damaging to ethnic Brou Indigenous Peoples, and particularly Brou women, who have been proportionally more impacted, and have been generally less able to take advantage of project compensation. In its expedient approach to project development, the project developers, including the World Bank, failed to even recognize that thousands of ethnic Brou people living in the Xe Bang Fai Basin qualify as Indigenous.This has led to a number of adverse consequences, including increasing the vulnerability of these communities to induced internal resettlement. Much more needs to be done to address the plight of those impacted, particularly Indigenous Peoples and especially Indigenous women, by Nam Theun 2 in the Xe Bang Fai River Basin.

A limited number of copies of the article can be downloaded for free:


Lead photo: Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Dam in Lao PDR (Photo: Louis Berger)