Dead in the Water: Global Lessons from the World Bank's Model Hydropower Project in Laos

TitleDead in the Water: Global Lessons from the World Bank's Model Hydropower Project in Laos
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsShoemaker, Robichaud
Secondary TitleThe University of Wisconsin Press
Key themesEcology and Livelihoods, Energy Planning, Hydropower, Safeguards

For decades, large dam projects have been undertaken by both national and international agencies with the aim of doing good: preventing floods, bringing electricity to rural populations, producing revenues for poor countries, and more. But time after time, the social, economic, and environmental costs have outweighed the benefits of the dams, sometimes to a disastrous degree. In this volume, a diverse group of experts—involved for years with the Nam Theun 2 dam in Laos—issue an urgent call for critical reassessment of the approach to, and rationale for, these kinds of large infrastructure projects in developing countries. In the 2000s, as the World Bank was reeling from revelations of past hydropower failures, it nonetheless promoted the enormous Nam Theun 2 project. Nam Theun 2, the Bank believed, offered a new, wiser model of dam development that would alleviate poverty, protect the environment, engage locally affected people in a transparent fashion, and stimulate political transformation. This was a tall order. For the first time, this book shows in detail why, despite assertions of success from the World Bank and other agencies involved in the project, the dam's true story has been one of substantial loss for affected villagers and the regional environment. Nam Theun 2 is an important case study that illustrates much broader problems of global development policy.


Not Available for Download; Briefing papers in Khmer, Burmese, Thai and Vietnamese with key messages of the book can be downloaded via URL link above. English briefing paper can be downloaded below.


Global, Laos, Thailand

Document Type

Edited Book

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