Making the Most of Opportunity
“My family is proud of what I’m doing here. I’m growing and maturing with NTPC, both personally and professionally” Miss Vee, Hydrobiologist.
One spin-off benefit of the Nam Theun 2 Multi-Purpose Project in Laos is the opportunities for personal development that an undertaking of this size and complexity offers for Lao people. The case of Miss Sadavee Phabmixay, or Vee, provides an example of how Nam Theun 2 has created openings in disciplines that are otherwise limited in this developing nation.
Vee, 24, is a hydrobiologist working in the Nam Theun 2 Power Company’s (NTPC) Aquatic Environment Laboratory, on the Nakai Plateau in central Laos. She joined NTPC after graduating from the National University in biology, and has been working alongside a French biologist for the last year and a half. “I wanted to be a biologist from a young age,” she explains, “and was thrilled when my application to Nam Theun 2 was accepted.”
There are as yet few laboratories in Laos, and the NTPC Lab is one of the best equipped in the country. Moreover, the job offers a chance to work in various aspects of hydrobiology: collecting field samples, studying flora and fauna in a variety of parameters, and sharing work and results with chemical analysis researchers.
“I learn a lot here”, she beams, “from analysing things such as fish health, to actually catching the fish myself in the rivers and on the reservoir. My field work is very practical: collecting, molluscs, zooplankton, dragonflies, and so on, and I also get to watch how professional scientists conduct their research, record their data and report on their findings. I am gathering a lot of experience quickly”.
Vee hopes to work for NTPC for another couple of years, but also harbours ambitions of winning a scholarship for a Master’s degree overseas. She speaks with a confidence that comes with her newly-gained experience. “My parents were initially worried about me moving from home to a remote area like Nakai”, she says, “but now they see that I am a more patient person and that I enjoy what I do. My brothers and sisters are also proud of me.”
NTPC policy is to find Lao nationals capable of growing into technical positions and to train them to international standard in their work. This long-term approach will benefit the company, the people recruited and have a knock-on effect on national development.
Vee sees the value of her work in the AE Lab, which is contributing to global understanding of the evolution of tropical reservoirs. “This is important work for Laos and for our knowledge in general,” she says, “and I hope that the research work here continues for as long as the project. That depends on the company and our international partners, but in the meantime I am really enjoying learning and evolving here”.