Nam Theun 2: Just about ready to start filling in


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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 (Update as of April 9: Sorry, the Progress Report will be uploaded on our website at 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.


Join the Conversation

Tawan Pornpang
April 19, 2008

I am your neighbor living in Udon Thani, Thailand. We will benefit from energy produced and thank you for all of your hard work.

Look forward to more updates and pictures.

Thank you


Nicholas Cantrell
May 03, 2008

The intentions of the World Bank are purportedly to ensure better quality of life for the people of "underdeveloped," or the equally loaded term, "developing" countries. The intention is to provide for a better standard of living for local communities. I have read Nanda's blogs about the new schools, roads, health centers and housing you are putting in, but I wonder if damming such a huge amount of water for electricity export will ever reach the people. Is this going to be just another desperate longing for trickel-down? Sure now the people of Laos are being taken care of, but how do you ensure food security in the future when ALL fish are gone? How do you stop these people from being totally dependent on foreign aid when you are "teaching them" how to live in their new lifestyles?
Often in South East Asian 'development' and all over ther world, relocations fail because of the near imposibility of building a functional and viable economy in these cookie-cutter ghost towns. Are these relocation towns in appropriate places for sustaining a people and economy? Taking a look at the mammoth distance and amount of the river being cut off, I would like to ask: What exactly is the World Bank doing to ensure that rolocated peoples and all those formerly downstream do not rush into the nearest city, becoming squatters or some other 'nuisance' for the country to deal with? What is the World Bank doing to compensate for the loss of an economy of susbsistence and trade to all those who depended on the river?

Nanda Gasparini
May 14, 2008

Nicholas, thank you for reading the blog and posting your questions and views. I have attempted to begin to address some of the issues you raise on a separate post, "And what happens after the NT2 Project is over?" (posted on May 8) As I mention in that post, the questions and issues you raise are extremely valid, relevant and important, and while I may not be able to answer all of them, I would like to use some of my postings to share information on what is happening and how the points you raise are being addressed. I hope you find it useful and keep the feedback coming.

Jim Chalker
June 23, 2008


I just wanted to let you know that I've posted a link to your blog in the news and links section of my web site:

I'm cureently writing about dams, am now finishing a piece about Gilgel Gibe in Ethiopia and will shortly after be writing a piece about Nam Theun 2.

Your blog is very helpful, and I hope you will continue to keep us posted about this very important topic. Thanks.

Nanda Gasparini
June 25, 2008

Thanks Jim, keep me posted. And feel free to email me directly if you have any questions, I'm happy to provide any information.

Best, Nanda.

Email: [email protected]

доверительное управление
March 13, 2009

>closure of the tunnel could go ahead (pdf).

404 - Not Found
The page you are trying to access does not exist.

I can’t download PDF files that I need. :(

Claudia Gabarain
March 13, 2009

Thanks for the heads up, please check back in three or four days, since it's the weekend already and we'll need to contact the office in Vientiane to fix this. I'll post another comment here to let you know that it's available again.