Sustainability in Hydropower

Chanda Phiathep, Deputy Director of the Nam Mang 3 hydropower project in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, realized he could be improving the sustainability of his project after he attended his first training on how to apply IFC’s Performance Standards to daily work.

“IFC’s training gave me a new way to approach environmental and social challenges related to my project,” said Phiathep. “I now feel more organized and plan to draw from the Performance Standards to improve my environmental and social reporting.”

The training was the second one sponsored by EDL-Generation Public Company (EDL-GEN), the largest hydroelectricity generator in Lao PDR, for its employees over the past year. The course introduced the performance standards and provided participants with an overview of the business case for operating their hydropower plants more sustainably. Additionally, course participants attended a round table discussion with other developers operating in Lao PDR and gained insight on cumulative impacts of multiple hydropower projects in the same basin.

Located near a Hmong minority village, Nam Mang 3 is the only multi-purpose hydropower plant owned by EDL-Gen that generates electricity and provides water for irrigation. A key concern for dam operators is improving management of water resources and community relations. The plant’s workers regularly communicate with affected villagers but often run into safety and water-related problems with near-by farms.

“I think we could better manage our water resources by adopting the Performance Standards,” said Phiathep. “The standards can also help us improve the communication of our operations and safety issues to surrounding communities. I think now I have a better idea of how to work with nearby communities and balancing our needs while addressing theirs.”

Amkha Keolouangkhot, the Director of Nam Sana Hydropower Plant that is 300 kilometers north of Nam Mang 3, reports similar challenges.

“The community in the area of our plant has farmed on this land for 1,000 years,” he said. “We understand that working with the affected community is a process, and the Performance Standards provide us a framework on how we can work with the local people better going forward.”

IFC and EDL-Gen have been working together since late-2014, aiming to improve its management of environmental and social risks so that the company can operate more sustainably. In the Mekong region, IFC provides companies, such as EDL-Gen, with tools to manage their environmental and social risks they face with hydropower development.

Learn more about sustainable hydropower in the Mekong region.