From resettlement to sustainable livelihood development : the potential of resettlement and livelihood restoration arrangement to achieve livelihood sutainability : a case study of resettled communities on the Nakai plateau Nam Theun 2 hydropower project in Lao PDR : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Over the past few decades, development-induced displacement and resettlement has potentially run the risk of impoverishing local populations, threatening people’s livelihoods and truncating their chances for sustainable development. To address the impact of displacement and resettlement on affected communities, a ‘resettlement with development’ approach has been increasingly adopted by numerous development agencies focusing on mitigation policy, plans and strategies. Particularly, the integration of a sustainable development concept into livelihood restoration initiatives has gained more attention in resettlement and development discourse. This thesis explores claims that the risks associated with resettlement can be avoided or mitigated by careful planning that includes livelihood development initiatives for the affected populations. Specifically, this thesis examines the potential of the existing resettlement and livelihoods restoration programs to address the livelihood sustainability of resettled communities associated with the Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project in Lao PDR.
The findings of this study indicate that the Nakai resettlement and livelihood restoration programs have the potential to strengthen local capacities. This is particularly through the increased access to various livelihood assets and resources. With resettlement, Nakai resettlers have experienced a significant improvement in physical capital such as shelter, road access and communication infrastructure. The improved access to physical capital following resettlement has further enhanced resettlers’ ability to gain access to human, social and financial capitals. The capacity to access these resources is seen to be vital for the reconstruction of the resettlers’ livelihoods, and can also be crucial for the achievement of long-term livelihood sustainability.
The results of this study further suggest that the Nakai resettlement and livelihood restoration scheme has to date supported the resettlers on the Nakai Plateau in gaining a number of positive livelihood experiences. These extend beyond economic or monetary gains through increased income and access to employment, to also include other social and psychological benefits such as better health care and education, and an improved sense of security and self-esteem. All of these achievements were found to be fundamental for resettlers in realizing their own livelihood goals and objectives in the future.
Finally, although the findings of this research identified some challenges experienced by resettlers such as the reduction of agricultural and grazing land area, none were perceived to be major threats that were preventing them from achieving their livelihood objectives. Instead, the experience with the Nam Theun 2 project has highlighted one of the key lessons learnt from previous resettlement programs that is worth highlighting for future resettlement program mitigation associated with development projects: to have the resettlers fully engaged in the entire process of livelihood strategy development.