The impact of Nam Theun 2 hydropower development project on human wellbeing in Lao PDR

Author: Ketsana Xaiyasarn

Xaiyasarn, Ketsana, 2021 The impact of Nam Theun 2 hydropower development project on human wellbeing in Lao PDR, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

Terms of Use: This electronic version is (or will be) made publicly available by Flinders University in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. You may use this material for uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material and/or you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact with the details.


Everywhere, people seek to improve their quality of life and wellbeing, including in health, education and living standards. Energy, particularly in the form of electricity, is needed for daily life and development. Therefore, access to electricity is vital for the improvement of human wellbeing. Several hydropower plants are being planned and constructed in developing countries like Lao PDR . While there are several studies on the positive and negative impacts of hydropower development on the Lao economy, poverty and environment. So far, there is little understanding of how the development of hydropower impacts on human wellbeing in the context of Lao PDR.

This research aims to assess the impact of hydropower development in Lao PDR on the wellbeing of people affected by the project. The findings of the study are based on analyses of both qualitative and quantitative data to measure the wellbeing of people in the region of this power project. The statistical data used in this study are drawn from the Lao Social Indicator Surveys (LSIS) conducted by the Lao Statistics Bureau in 2006, 2012 and 2017. Wellbeing of the affected people has been assessed by using the Alkire et al., (2015) method of measuring multi-dimensional poverty and subjective wellbeing, as modified by Saikia et al., (2018) based on the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index. The Nam Theun 2 hydropower project (NT2 project) has been used as a comparative case study to assess how hydropower development impacts on the overall wellbeing of the people of Lao PDR.

The findings from this study suggest that, generally, the development of NT2 project has improved the wellbeing of the residents in the host communities, especially newer generations born after the completion of the development project. Electricity generated by the project offers greater positive economic externalities to the people outside the immediate vicinity. However, development projects such the NT2 project are not without negative effects on the people living in the region and surrounding areas. One of the major negative impacts is the displacement of peoples due to submersion of large areas by the construction of the dam. So far, around 6,300 effected people in 15 villages have been resettled and provided with support to obtain sustainable livelihoods. This study recommends that, despite the goals of the government to eradicate poverty at development agenda, wellbeing assessment should be integrated into the national development agenda in Lao PDR.

Keywords: wellbeing, Nam Theun 2, hydropower, Gross National Happiness, development, Lao PDR

Subject: International Studies thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2021
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Udoy Saikia