Research Highlight: Hydropower development and the livelihoods of downstream communities in Laos

Research Highlight: Hydropower development and the livelihoods of downstream communities in Laos

Research Highlight:
RIEL PhD candidate, Amphone Sivongxay, has just submitted her PhD for examination.

Amphone Sivongxay
Amphone has academic background in Environmental Engineering and Science. Her PhD research is on the downstream impacts of hydropower projects, case studies from her home country - Lao PDR.  This research has been developed from her interests in sustainable development and from her experience as an environmental inspector with the NTPC: Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project, a large hydropower project that is claimed to be a significant development project for Lao PDR and its people.
Laos is currently promoting hydropower generation and sale of electricity to neighbouring countries as a key economic development strategy. While helping the Government of Laos achieve its economic development goals, hydropower comes with costs that accrue at the local level. Hydropower projects can interrupt, alter and inhibit the delivery of resources and ecological services that have supported rural livelihoods. In the hydropower social debate, much attention has been paid to the communities that have had to be relocated because of project infrastructure such as the creation of reservoirs. The effects of hydropower, however, also extend to people living downstream of the dams.
This research aims to describe and analyse the effects of hydropower projects on downstream communities. Using a replicated cross-sectional case study design and a social survey as the main data-gathering methods, the research explores the perceived direct and indirect effects hydropower projects have on the people living downstream of six hydropower projects in Laos. The Sustainable Livelihoods Framework has been employed to categorise and quantify these effects in the environmental, financial and other domains.
The results show that, despite the broad influences on downstream ecosystems and the associated decline of river-based fisheries, hydropower does provide compelling benefits. Overall, downstream communities benefit from hydropower-related employment and improved infrastructure; though the poorer water quality and altered flow regimes after the dams are built are associated with a decline of river-based fisheries, downstream communities adjust to the conditions and modify their livelihoods. Minimising negative impacts and realising the potential benefits requires a number of conditions to be met regarding construction, operation and the direct and indirect relationships between the project operator and the communities.
Key policy recommendations include mandating the consideration of downstream communities in social impact assessment, that capacity of downstream communities is increased by improving education and training, that mitigation measures are considered and implemented for every dam, that hydropower projects are mandated to provide environmental flows and a land-for-land option is available for compensation.

RIEL Headlines

  • Wed, 19/09/2012

    Charles Darwin University academics will join experts and opinion leaders in a debate this week about some of the hottest topics in conservation biology.

  • Society for Conservation Biology
    Mon, 17/09/2012

    More than 200 conservation scientists from the Asia Pacific area will meet in Darwin this month to discuss conservation biology issues relevant to the region.

  • Conservation status of sharks revealed in new book by RIEL researcher
    Mon, 17/09/2012

    A new book by a conservation biologist provides groundbreaking information about the threats to sharks and other marine species.

  • Sat, 01/09/2012

    RIEL Research Associates Dionisia Lambrinidis and Judy Manning are playing a key role in the Northern Territory Government’s Air Quality Program.

  • Sat, 04/08/2012

    Congratulations to Dr. Kean Yap for securing a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Australian Solar Institute (ASI).

  • NAFI website
    Sat, 04/08/2012

    At the start of the dry season, fire managers in the north started to implement patchy burns to break up the landscape and reduce fuel - and they checked the progress of these burns on the North Australian Fire Information (NAFI) fire-tracking website, hosted by RIEL.

  • Sat, 04/08/2012

    RIEL researchers Rohan Fisher and Bronwyn Myers have been awarded two grants from AusAID’s (The Australian Agency for International Development) Public Sector Linkages Program (PSLP) totalling more than $300,000 for activities over 18 months.

  • Sat, 04/08/2012

    For the last month, FEAM PHD student Sarah Hobgen has been working at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation in Lucas Heights, Sydney. Sarah is preparing and analysing samples for Plutonium, using state-of-the-art equipment for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry.

  • Sat, 04/08/2012

    The Daly River community in the Northern Territory will be less reliant on diesel thanks to a new project targeted at increasing solar penetration in remote towns and communities.

  • Sat, 04/08/2012

    Congratulations to our RIEL researchers on the award of funding from the ARC Linkage Projects scheme. The Australian Research Council awards funding to a select few academics and researchers in Australian Universities each year and we are very pleased that all three RIEL applications were successful.


Jump to NRBL themeJump to CMEM themeJump to FEM themeJump to SMWC themeJump to TRF themeJump to RIEL home

Innovative Research University

© 2011-2013 Charles Darwin University
Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods
Privacy Policy
CRICOS Provider No. 00300K | RTO Provider No. 0373

Phone (+61) 8 8946 6413