NAKAI TAI, Laos — One of Asia's poorest countries officially inaugurated a $1.3 billion hydroelectric dam Thursday that is earning badly needed revenue and could set new global standards for limiting environmental damage and improving the lives of those displaced.
The dam in central Laos was the first major hydroelectric project supported by the World Bank after a long hiatus in the face of criticism that dams harm communities and the environment.
Activists warned that it's too early to call the project a success, noting questions remain about the dam's impact on water quality and fisheries and whether the resettled will be able to support themselves economically.
The prime minister of neighboring Thailand — which will buy 95 percent of the dam's electricity — joined Lao leaders and international officials in unveiling a marker at the site.
The dam, which has been operating since April, is expected to bring in $2 billion over the next 25 years, money the government has pledged to spend on reducing poverty in this landlocked nation with few resources besides its mountains and rivers.
The World Bank estimates the project will account for almost 40 percent of Laos' economic growth this year.