LAOS

After months of dispute between the World Bank (wb) and the government over the funding of the controversial us $1.2 billion Nam Thuen ii dam, both parties have evolved a consensus (Down To Earth, Vol 5, No 2). Laos and the wb have agreed to revise the terms of reference for two studies concerning the alternatives to the dam and the economic impact of the project on the country. The bank would approve a political risk guarantee to the government only after going through the two studies.

If the wb supports the project, then the government will have to meet international standards on environmental protection and the resettlement of people living in the reservoir area, said the dam's developers. The dam would inundate 447 sq km of an area which contains a vast biodiversity of plants and animals.Some new species of mammals have recently been discovered in the area. However, large-scale logging has been carried out in anticipation of the project.

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