The People and their River, the World Bank and its Dam: Revisiting the Xe Bang Fai River in Laos


Baird, Ian G., Bruce P. Shoemaker, and Kanokwan Manorom. 2015. “The People and Their River, the World Bank and Its Dam: Revisiting the Xe Bang Fai River in Laos.” Development and Change 46 (5): 1080–1105.

Authors: Ian G. Baird, Bruce P. Shoemaker, Kanokwan Manorom


Sustained criticism in the 1980s and 1990s resulted in a decline of World Bank funding for large hydropower dams. The Bank subsequently participated in the World Commission on Dams process, which set higher global standards for hydropower dams. In 2005, the World Bank agreed to support the Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project (NT2) in Laos, and in 2010 NT2 began diverting water from the Theun River into the Xe Bang Fai River. The World Bank has promoted NT2 as a successful model of poverty alleviation, justifying support for other large dams. Assessing actual impacts and associated mitigation and compensation is thus timely. This article presents qualitative field research from early 2014 about the downstream impacts of NT2 in the Xe Bang Fai River basin and a description and analysis of efforts to compensate for losses. The authors consider the situation with the assistance of baseline data collected in 2001, before project approval. Findings suggest that NT2 has had a significant negative impact, including on the livelihoods of large numbers of people dependent on the river's resources. Many of those impacted view compensation and mitigation efforts as having failed to adequately address their losses. Further independent investigation and documentation are needed.

Topics: Gender, Women, Infrastructure, International Financial Institutions, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Laos

Year: 2015

© 2023 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at