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Compensation issues key to MahaNathiSithandone SEZ progress

A new Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Champassak province known as “MahaNathiSithandone” will not be able to proceed without the completed compensation for affected villagers according to the head of the provincial SEZ authority.
The government recently signed a concession agreement with Chinese developer (Laos MahaNathiSithandone (Hong Kong) Investment Co., Ltd), in partnership with LTV Road and Bridge Construction Sole Co., Ltd for the project construction.
Nevertheless, officials say it’s critical to compensate local people affected by the project to avoid any problem that may occur with local villagers before the plan can proceed. 
“The government stresses the need to compensate affected villagers before the construction activities can commence,” Champassak provincial SEZ Authority chairman MrKhamphonNuansengsy told Vientiane Times on Thursday.
The US$9 billion project covers an area of 9,846 hectares in an area adjacent to Khonphapheng Waterfall and a number of islands in Khong district.
The concession period for the project is 50 years which can be extended.
However the developers have been asked to firstly develop the unpopulated area of 7,000 hectares situated nearby Khonphapheng Waterfall to minimise impacts on local people.
Of the total 7,000 hectares, 3,000 hectares are land owned by individual villagers and communities.
At the moment this is no information available regarding how much the cost of compensation will be and how many villagers will be affected by the project.
A National Committee for Compensation of Affected Villagers is being instituted.
This body will play the significant role in defining fair prices of compensation and ensure that affected villagers enjoy better living conditions or equivalent to what they had before the project construction.
Officials said the compensation for this project which is designed as a new town in southern Laos must be made based on market values.
“MahaNathiSithandone” is one of the largest projects proposed in the nation and is set to comprise a number of activities ranging from infrastructure development, hotels, guesthouses, financial-banking institutions, insurance service, education, health, entertainment venue and amusement parks.
Other project activities will also include fishery, agriculture promotion, handicraft, agriculture processing and other tourism-related businesses.       
Speaking during the signing ceremony of the concession agreement, the Minister of Planning and Investment DrSouphanhKeomixay highlighted the importance of the project for the socio-economic development of Laos.
If developed according to plan, the project is expected to attract about 1.3 million tourists and generate US$205 million a year by 2025 and 10 million tourists generating revenue of more than US$2.4 billion a year anticipated by 2050.
The project is also expected to generate US$107 million annually from various taxes and create some 100,000 jobs for local people.
Khonephapheng waterfall and the four thousands islands are already among of the top tourism destinations in Laos, enticing thousands of tourists to southern region.
This region is also an abundant fish resource, supplying not only markets in southern Laos but also other parts of the country and beyond.

By SomsackPongkhao
(Latest Update
July 20,

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