Lao villagers hail solar project’s minimal impact — Radio Free Asia
A plan to bring solar power to Attapeu province in southern Laos appears to be the country’s rare energy project to garner support from local residents, who say its Singaporean developer has offered them acceptable compensation while minimizing the impact on their community.
“This project developed by a Singaporean investor is good. It will not displace any villagers because it is a solar system and because it is quite far from our community,” said a resident of Hatxan village in Xaysettha district, who, like all other anonymous sources in this report, requested anonymity for security reasons, RFA’s Lao service told. .
The Lao government sees power generation as a way to boost the economy of the landlocked country. But the dam projects along the Mekong that form the backbone of his plan to become the “Battery of Southeast Asia” are generally controversial because of their environmental impacts, their effects on villagers – many of whom are forced to relocate – and of their questionable finances and power. demand adjustments.
But most residents of Hatxan told RFA that Singaporean developer Solar Attapeu Power Sole Company, Ltd had offered them fair compensation to offset the impact of its solar project, unlike many communities affected by the various hydroelectric projects across the country.
“It will only affect about 20 families and small parts of farmland for which they have no land title. It’s state land and they only have the right to use the land and pay taxes on it every year. So the authorities and the company will just compensate the labor of the villagers, the fruit trees and the huts,” said the Hatxan villager.
“The compensation will not be much. This will be around eight million kips (US$523) per hectare (2.5 acres). We are satisfied with the compensation. This project will have no impact on the environment or our community. On the contrary, it can help grow our local economy,” the source said.
The Lao government and Solar Attapeu held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Attapeu Solar Power Project (SAPP) in Hatxan village on August 12, according to a report by the state-run Vientiane Times.
The project is capable of producing 64 megawatts and is expected to be completed by the end of 2023 at a cost of US$69.2 million. The electricity will be sold to the public electricity company of Laos, Electricité du Laos.
While solar projects typically produce much less power than hydroelectric dams and are weather-limited, they have a much smaller environmental footprint and require significantly less upfront costs to build.
Another villager said the compensation was fair but said development projects should benefit local communities instead of just being designed to limit their impact.
“My question is, how can our community benefit from the project? Will it generate income for us or will it create jobs for us? Will it help develop our community or improve our living conditions? said the second villager.
“If we don’t get anything from the project, then it’s not reasonable. The three parties, namely the company, the government and the community, must share the benefits and the development must be sustainable. »
An official from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment of Attapeu Province told RFA that although the project is being developed on agricultural land and forest areas, it will not result in any displacement of local residents.
“Unlike dams, the solar energy project is a good development project – sustainable, not harmful to the environment and the community… Since 2014, the company has been carrying out surveys and feasibility studies on approximately 100 hectares of land around the village of Hatxan for the project. All of this is state land,” the official said.
Farmers are not being compensated for land lost under the project because it is state land, he said.
“The owner will pay compensation for his products, his labor and his huts. The compensation will be paid over the next three years,” the official said.
The solar project will also be much cheaper than dams because it will not require paying to displace villagers, an official from the energy and mines department of Attapeu province told RFA.
“The investment cost is low. Solar and wind power projects are gaining popularity all over the world right now. They are good, durable and less expensive. They contribute to the development of the country’s economy and the local community as well.
Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Eugene Whong.