Hydro dam threatens elephants

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News24 (South Africa) 24 August 2004

The inundation and degradation of a large part of the Nakai Plateau would eliminate 95% of the wetlands, almost all mineral licks and large areas of forests and grasslands that are essential habitat for the Nakai elephants.

A $1.3bn hydro-electric dam project planned central Laos threatens inundate stomping grounds 120 wild elephants, an environmental group warned on Tuesday. If built, Nam Theun 2 hydro-electric project would result severe, negative impacts on endangered Asian elephant population Nakai Plateau, said Bangkok-based Terra (Towards Ecological Recovery Regional Alliance).

The World Bank-backed Nam Theun 2 project threatens flood 450mฒ Nakai Plateau central Laos, degrade another 500m. However, World Bank Nam Theun 2 Power Company have yet disclose impact on elephant herds living on plateau, said Terras Premrudee Daoroung. The World Bank Asian Development Bank will host consultation on Nam Theun 2 dam Bangkok on August 31, followed similar discussions Tokyo, Paris Washington DC, drum up support controversial project which has its supporters detractors even among environmentalists.

Export revenues desperately needed Laos

Some environmentalists have argued Laos, one worlds poorest countries, desperately needs export revenues earned hydro-electricity exports Nam Theun 2 raise sufficient funds halt rampant illegal logging currently plaguing Nakai Plateau region border areas.

Others, such Terra, argue dam will involve more ecological damage than worth. According recent estimates, least 120 elephants - approximately 10% total elephant population Laos - live on Nakai Plateau, noted Terra. The dams construction would effectively wipe out pachyderms natural habitat area.

The inundation degradation large part Nakai Plateau would eliminate 95% wetlands, almost mineral licks large areas forests grasslands are essential habitat Nakai elephants, Terra said. - Sapa-dpa