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Departing thoughts on NT2: The simple importance of information

Nanda Gasparini's picture

It’s now that time for me when you have to sit down and write goodbye and thank you emails, throw away all those trees you’ve cut over the years (that would be paper), wrap up work, pack up your stuff and say goodbye.

Strategically I guess I could ‘use’ this last blog posting as a way to highlight all the progress that Nam Theun 2 has made over the past two years. Don’t worry, I won’t. While that has definitely been a component of my job – highlighting progress and explaining challenges and ways to overcome them – I think the broader and most important component of this job has been access to information: Access to people, to the site, and to reports.

Over the past two years, among other things, I’ve worked on liaising with journalists, students, NGOs, academics and others to visit the site, to respond to letters, emails and phone calls with questions, suggestions, recommendations…. And I know the people working in the Lao Government (check out their updated website here), the Nam Theun 2 Power Company and the Asian Development Bank, among others, have been doing the same. Access to the project exists, and in a country like Laos, where information – for a number of simple and more complex reasons – is not always in high supply, this has been of high importance.

Information to some, of course, is a double edge sword. I have met people over the years (not only in NT2) who are reluctant to share information because they feel “the more we say, the more we get criticized.” Or people who think producing information is a futile exercise because it never seems to satisfy those asking the questions and just leads to even more questions. And the sad thing is this isn’t necessarily false. Thankfully most of the people working in NT2 have the broader picture in mind and understand that providing information is not so that people can criticize you (or not), but to explain what is happening, share facts and add value to the amount of knowledge there is on a topic, among other things. And I’m only referring to stakeholders just wanting to be informed, not the people impacted (it is NTPC and GOL’s responsibility to work on information sharing with the impacted villagers – one of their most important jobs of course).

Providing information is not so that people can criticize you, but to explain what is happening, share facts and add value to the amount of knowledge there is on a topic.
For instance less than a month ago I sat through 29 sets of presentations at the Third NT2 Stakeholders Forum, which updated every single aspect of the project. There were about 400 people at this event, including civil society, villagers and government representatives. And while 29 PowerPoint presentations may sound grueling, it was incredibly informative (the presentations are available here).

So three cheers to information sharing and hope it continues. Don’t forget this isn’t a one-way street. If you, reader, have information/suggestions/feedback that you think can improve the project, share it. In this project, people listen.

So now it’s time to say goodbye. I have struggled writing this blog because, surprisingly to anyone that knows me, I didn’t want to make it about “me” ;-) But I guess I have to add a line or two. To start off let me first just say I am expecting an invitation (and an air ticket would be nice) to the NT2 opening ceremony on December 15, 2009 (World Bank: hint, hint!!)

It has been two years and two months since my first arrival in Laos. I’d need a bit longer than a blog entry to explain the number of people I met, the amount of things I learned, the progress I saw, and the way my perspective changed in many ways about so many things. It has been, in every sense, a remarkable experience. Every single day working in this country, in this project, with all my Lao and expat colleagues, my visits to numerous villages, the friends I’ve made… as clichéd as it is to say, they have changed me as person and as a professional. Which is why, although I’m saddened to leave, I am so fulfilled from everything I’ve experienced here, and that I depart with a sense of tranquility, happiness and ease.

Sok Dee.