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Bugs or early morning videoconferences in Laos: take your pick

William Rex's picture

About a couple of months ago I took over as the team leader of the Nam Theun 2 Social and Environment project  and am joining Nanda to blog about the project. Nanda’s description of eating insects made an American colleague mention a popular US reality TV show called “Fear Factor” that apparently revolved around eating insects. Here in Laos that’s no big deal – I can recommend crickets stir fried in soy sauce to accompany your beerlao – but the thought of being stuck in endless NT2 team meetings does seem to induce real terror among some.

Meetings abound because NT2 is a pretty big and complex program, and we have a large team with a broad range of expertise, including a number of long-standing consultants. A number of us, including me, are based in Vientiane. The rest of the team is spread across Asia, Europe and North America, which makes videoconferences part of life, and guaranteed to be at a bad time for someone.

I’ve just finished reading emails about water quality monitoring – someone explaining the science of how to choose the right places and right depths to take samples, as well as the range of things to monitor – and a mention of “biota” makes me wish I’d listened more in my biology class.

Poor water quality is an issue for all new reservoirs because whatever vegetation ends up under water will decompose, altering the amount of oxygen that is available in the water, and ultimately whether or not it is a viable habitat for fish. Almost all new reservoirs go through an initial period of poor water quality, and most dam builders use four basic strategies to minimize the period: increasing aeration, adjusting the intake structure design, removing some vegetation from the inundation zone before flooding it, and flushing water out of the dam after the initial filling. With NT2, the plan is to do all four.

Let me end my first entry by noting that many perceive NT2 to be a World Bank hydropower project. From my perspective, that’s inaccurate in every respect. More on that in a future posting.