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NEWS UPDATES 27 July 2010

Laos power plant earns money

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The Lao government earned US $600,000 dollars off the Nam Theun II hydropower plant last month, its first revenue from the ecologically controversial project, project sources said Tuesday to the Ventiane Times.

According to a joint report issued by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, two of the main sponsors of the US$2-billion project, the Lao government received the money from the plant owners in June.

The payment came two months after Nam Theun II (NT2) commenced commercial operations. The plant, located in Hinboun district, Khammouane province, was opposed by environmentalists and human rights groups concerned about the dam's impact on downstream fisheries, watersheds and the relocation of 6,000 villagers. Laos, one of the world's poorest countries, has few other sources of revenue other than hydro-electricity, which is exported to neighbouring Thailand. Government revenues from the plant are expected to reach 6.5 million dollars by late September, the banks' report said.

The money is earmarked to finance poverty reduction and development programmes in Laos, one of the World Bank's conditions which has acted as a guarantor for loans to the project.

"With close to three quarters of the population of Laos still living on less than 2 dollars a day, the money generated by the NT2 is providing a significant boost to the country's economy and helping improve people's lives," said John Roome, Word Bank Director for Sustainable Development in the East Asia & Pacific Region.

Over the 25-year concession period, the country will receive nearly 2 billion dollars in revenues from the project, which is jointly owned by consortium comprising Electricite de France SA (35 per cent), the Goverment of Laos and two Thai companies, the Electricty Generating Public Co (EGO) and the Italian-Thai Development PCL (ITD), each holding a 25-per-cent share.

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