Authors: Amphone Sivongxay, Romy Greiner and Stephen T. Garnett
Hydropower generation and the sale of electricity to neighbouring countries form a key economic development strategy in Laos. The environmental and social implications of the strategy are not as yet fully understood. This paper presents research on the social impacts of hydropower with focus on communities located downstream from hydropower projects. The sustainable livelihoods framework is used to categorise and quantify impacts across environmental, financial, social and other domains. The results show that hydropower provides compelling net benefits for the case study downstream communities. Employment, social programs and infrastructure development are key benefits and outweigh negative impacts such as on riverine fisheries. Minimising negative impacts and maximising the potential benefits requires a number of conditions to be met regarding construction, operation, and direct and indirect relations of the project operator with the communities. Policy implications of the research for hydropower policy in Laos are discussed.
Keywords: hydropower; downstream impacts; livelihoods; livelihoods capital