Exploring the Impact of Resettlement on Women: A Case Study of the Nam Mang 3 Hydropower Dam in Central Laos
Over the last decade, construction of hydropower dams has increased rapidly around the world, including in developing countries. For many countries including Laos, energy production and export play a significant role in promoting and boosting economic growth and development. Energy production generates substantial revenue and foreign exchange from exporting electricity and expands economic activity domestically. However, construction of hydropower dams also causes negative effects on the people who live at and around the dam site. Some local communities have been affected indirectly, while others require relocation to other areas bringing significant change, including for women. This research explores the impact of resettlement from hydropower dam creation on women by using the Nam Mang 3 hydropower dam in central Laos as a case study. This dam, completed in 2005, required the relocation of approximately 150 households from two villages at the dam site. The research draws on a social constructivist epistemology, qualitative methods including semi-structured interviews, and analysis of relevant policy documents. Interviews involved 18 participants including both male and female from the three affected villages. Results indicate that the resettlement of villagers by the Nam Mang 3 hydropower dam has generally improved living conditions of the resettled communities. Women were found to have greater opportunities to benefit from home-based business, employment and wage labouring. In addition, with better access to modern facilities and services, women have been able to save greater time from agricultural activities and divert this time saving to other economic activities. Overall, access to water supplies, roads, and transport have reduced women’s workload significantly. Access to improved health services and facilities have also improved women’s wellbeing. Girls have greater opportunities to attend school and seek employment in towns. However, this research identified some challenges experienced by the resettled such as the reduction of agricultural and grazing land area, and that new livelihood options were not accessible to all women. Instead of these challenges, the experience with the Nam Mang 3 hydropower project has highlighted one of the key lessons learnt that is worth highlighting for future resettlement programs, which is to have the resettlers fully engaged in the entire process of resettlement and livelihood strategy development.