|Benefits of hydropower in Lao PDR|
|Saturday, 26 April 2008 11:14|
Power to fight poverty
Lao PDR’s long-term national development goal will be achieved through sustained equitable economic growth and social development, while safeguarding the country’s social, cultural, economic and political identity. The foundations for reaching this goal have been laid during the past 33 years of peace and development in the country.
The National Growth Poverty Eradication Strategy (NGPES) is central to the national development agenda. The NGPES encapsulates the essence of Lao PDR’s approach towards achieving the goal set in 1996 by the 6th Party Congress, namely, exiting the group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) by 2020.
The Lao Government believes production and exports of hydropower will bring many benefits to the country. Primarily it will boost revenues, which can be used to alleviate poverty and improve the standard of living of the average Lao citizen.
Expanded revenues from hydropower projects can be committed to:
• expansion of health, education and other social services
• improvements in transport, communications, water supply, electrification and other infrastructure
• increasing the resources of the Lao Government's environmental agencies to improve the effectiveness of their protection programs.
Broad improvements in the national economy resulting from stronger national accounts will generate employment opportunities and create wealth. Within depressed rural areas this will reduce dependency on "slash and burn" cultivation, poaching, excessive fishing and other unsustainable practices.
Direct investment by developers in project areas will boost local economies and create employment during construction. A more lasting legacy will be improved local infrastructure and upgraded workforce skills. Benefits accruing from hydropower may include rural electrification, improved roads, hospitals and education facilities, the development of agro-forestry and potential dry-season irrigation, as well as skills development and job creation.
Using a regular supply of water and cheap electricity, rain-fed paddy land can be replaced with irrigated paddy and cash crops. Headponds and reservoirs can be stocked with fish and these resources can be managed to ensure that they are not overfished. The community's health and nutrition status will also improve as part of a gradual improvement in socio-economic conditions.
The expansion of the country's electrical transmission system will widen the availability of cheap and reliable electricity, potentially stimulating industrialisation in rural areas and raising the quality of life of the populations affected.
Power to protect the environment
Hydropower uses falling water as its energy source and is a totally renewable source of energy. It has an energy conversion efficiency of close to 100%. By contrast the main alternative to hydropower is thermal generation which has lower efficiencies (33 - 40%) and is associated with degradation of the atmosphere, global warming and acid rain formation. Acid rain from thermal generation is a growing regional problem in South East Asia. For more information on the environment see Environment.