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Hydroelectric power sustainable development in Laos needs to focus on environmental, social impacts

VIENTIANE, March 7 (Xinhua) -- An official from International Finance Corporation (IFC) urged Lao government to better understand cumulative river and ecosystem-wide impacts, which was of vital importance to achieving sustainable hydropower projects.

Kate Lazarus, team leader for the Mekong Sustainable Hydropower Program at IFC told Xinhua that the government of Laos has identified hydropower as an important source of income while contributing to poverty reduction and graduation from least developed country status.

"Hydropower investments require lengthy and thorough study to determine project feasibility and impact. The environmental and social impacts from hydropower projects need to be understand and managed. Government policy needs to be continually updated," Lazarus said.

"With abundant water resources, hydropower, if developed and managed well, hydropower can be shared regionally through wider connectivity of the grid, benefitting neighboring countries," she added.

The Mekong-side country is expected to have more than 60 generation projects online by 2020 up from the current 38, bringing electrification to 98 percent of the country's households up from the current 85 percent, according to the Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines.

According to the Ministry's Vision 2030 presented to January's five-yearly 10th Congress of the ruling Lao People's Revolutionary Party, the country's installed hydropower capacity by 2030 will be 17,000 megawatts (MW) of which 10,000 are expected to be exported, providing a significant economic and fiscal contribution in the highly import-dependent country.

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