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Nam Mang 3 hydropower dam, Lao PDR


The comparatively small Nam Mang 3 dam, with an installed capacity of 40MW, caused an unprecedented protest by affected ethnic minorities, threatened to be displaced to make room for the reservoir. On November 22, 2002, some 40 villagers, armed with guns and sticks, marched to the construction site, urging contractors to stop the work and to inform villagers about the project, where they would be relocated and what kind of compensation they would receive [1]. According to International Rivers [1], this was the first recorded villager-led protest against hydroelectric dams in Lao PDR, a sector experiencing enormous growth since the turn of the millennium [2]; much of it due to Thailand’s involvement as contracted importer of Lao produced hydroelectricity [3;4].

Based on a pre-feasibility study [4], construction of the dam began in late 2001, characterized by a lack of adequate impact assessments, non-transparent planning, finance and approval [1]. Loans for the $63 million project were provided largely by Chinese Export-Import Bank (80%) and partly (20%) by Electricite du Laos (EdL) [5]. Reports [1;4] estimated that around 2,745 people needed to be relocated from the catchment and reservoir area, while other 12,800 people upstream and downstream would be negatively affected through changing hydrological dynamics and related decline in fisheries. Located in the Phou Khao Khouy National Protected Area, the dam’s reservoir affects wildlife biodiversity, and additional transmission lines and access roads further fragment habitats, while providing entry points for illegal loggers [1]. Apart from social and environmental impacts, also its economic viability was questioned, for which reason the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Asian Development Bank urged to stop the project, raising concerns regarding Lao PDRs’ increasing debt burden [1]. Nevertheless, construction was completed in 2004.

Since the beginning of project planning, affected villagers, mainly ethnic Hmong, were not informed about the construction, or about the social impact mitigation and compensation measures [1] and environmental Impact Assessments were completed only after construction was finished [4]. The protesting villagers, demanding information and participation in impact mitigation, achieved to stop construction activities for a few days; however, they could not stop the project, driven by corporate and governmental interests, who responded by sending military units to the site to intimidate villagers [1]. While this protest has marked an unprecedented event in people’s public engagement against hydropower projects in Lao PDR, it remains, so far, one of the few instances of public protest in a country where civil society is largely repressed.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Nam Mang 3 hydropower dam, Lao PDR
Country:Lao PDR
State or province:Vientiane Province
Location of conflict:Namyam Village, Thulakhom district
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Nam Mang 3 Hydropower plant is multi-purpose project; it produces electricity and supports irrigation [5].

The dam has an installed capacity of up to 40MW, with an average annual production of 138 to 140 GWh/year [5]. 95% of produced electricity is exported to Thailand [4].

The reservoir size covers 1,000ha. The dam has a height of 28 m and a length of 150.9 m [5].

Investment size amounts to USD 63 million. Related loans come from the Export-Import Bank of China (80%) and from Electricite du Laos (20%) [5].

The constructor company was China International Water and Electric Corporation (CWE) [1].

The first feasibility study was conducted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which later on stepped back from the project [1]. British consultants Resource Management & Research (RMR) was hired during project construction phase (2002) to prepare an environmental impact assessment, environmental management plan and a social action plan within less than 5 months; a task that, properly done, would require at least two years [1]. The impact assessment identified serious concerns regarding the government’s capacity to handle the social and environmental impacts [4].

Project area:1,000ha (reservoir size)
Level of Investment for the conflictive project63,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:2,745 people displaced; 6,000 negatively affected upstream; 6,800 people negatively affected downstream
Start of the conflict:22/11/2002
End of the conflict:31/12/2004
Company names or state enterprises:Electricite du Laos (EdL) from Lao PDR
China International Water and Electric Corporation (CWE) (CWE) from China
Resource Management and Research LLP (RMR) (RMR) from United Kingdom - consultancy
International and Finance InstitutionsAsian Development Bank (ADB) - The first feasibility study was conducted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which later on stepped back from the project [1]
Export-Import Bank of China from China
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:International Rivers

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Threats to use arms
Refusal of compensation


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Strengthening of participation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Some villagers refused to be resettled, others were claiming adequate compensation [1]. NGO International Rivers urged to stop the project [1], as well as international donors such as World Bank, IMF and Asian Development Bank pressured Lao PDR to stop the project due to economic reasons [1].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project went on

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Water and Water Resources Law, Lao PDR

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] International Rivers, 2003. New Lao dam Embroiled in Controversy: Report from a Fact-Finding Mission to the Nam Mang 3 Hydropower Project. (accessed 12/03/2015)

[2] International Rivers, 2008. Power Surge: The Impacts of Rapid Dam Development in Laos. Report (accessed 10/03/2015)

[3] Middleton, C. (2012). Transborder Environmental Justice in Regional Energy Trade in Mainland South-East

Asia. ASEAS - Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 5(2), 292-315.

[4] Matthews, N., 2012. Water grabbing in the Mekong basin - An Analysis of the winners and losers of Thailand's hydropower development in Lao PDR. Water Alternatives 5(2), 392-411.

[5] Website of EdL - Electricité du Lao (accessed 12/03/2015)

Meta information

Contributor:A. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) / arnim.scheidel "at"
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1865



Nam Mang 3 dam


Nam Mang 3 dam