So the last couple of days have been – how should I put it? – intense. I’m sure at some point when you’ve had some major deadline approaching like preparing a major report for work, handing in a PhD or Masters thesis, preparing for a presentation at a big meeting, making a speech at a conference… You had to double check all your facts, or make sure the footnotes where right, or endlessly practice your presentation, or ensure all the attachments were prepared, or have all the documentation necessary to submit your report, or pray the computer didn’t swallow your information and damage the floppy disk or USB drive in the process (or all of the above)…. Well, getting ready to start the gradual process of filling the NT2 reservoir is easily 100 times more complex than that.
For NTPC (the Nam Theun 2 Power Company), for example, the last couple of weeks have been like doing all of the above: finish building the 1,272 new houses, help people move, check with the 6,200 villagers whether they want fences, build boats, set up the electricity, finish the 298 water wells, work on the schools, stock the health centers, build houses for the doctors and the teachers, work on the roads, write everything up so it’s documented, put it up on the website…
So, yes, the last few weeks have been hectic. On my side I have successfully managed to conquer all the readings so I am up-to date (at least for the next hour) on what is going on. The simplest way to explain it is this: on April 10, NTPC will close off a tunnel which has been used to go around the dam so the Nam Theun river water could be diverted and continued to flow throughout dam construction. Once this tunnel is closed, the reservoir will gradually begin to flood until 80km square of the 450km square reservoir is flooded. Then in June, the gates of the dam will shut and that’s when the full reservoir inundation will occur.
But to get to April 10, like I mentioned last time, a number of things had to get done and they have. Last week we had a number of meetings with the International Panel of Experts who monitors the project and advices the government, and they also reported that they were satisfied with progress and that the closure of the tunnel could go ahead (pdf). By this they meant that the houses and the people had been successfully resettled (98% of houses as of April 4, the remaining 35 households -- which are not impacted by the flooding that will occur as of April 10 -- will have moved by the end of April), that the emergency preparedness plan was ready (a plan in case anything goes wrong with the dam infrastructure), and a plan for villagers to fish in the new reservoir was also ready – among other things (for a comprehensive look at what all these “other things” are, take a look later this week at NTPC’s latest Progress Report on Reservoir Impoundment, an a Action Plan that shows what is going on throughout all the project areas, which will be uploaded
on their website at www.namtheun2.com). (Update as of April 9: Sorry, the Progress Report will be uploaded on our website at www.worldbank.org/laont2. Sorry for the confusion!)
So now I’m about to drive down to Thakek and up to Nakai to see the action live! I’ll be visiting some of the resettled villages as well as attending the tunnel closure ceremony and will be filming, taking pictures and blogging about it as well with my colleague William (whose blog you may have already read). So from there, live on Nakai, we will “fill you in” …. So stay tuned.