Thousands of people in Laos are still in need of rescue, after a dam in a southeastern province burst earlier this week, flooding villages and killing at least 26. The dam is one of 70 hydropower plants that are proposed, underway of have been built, mainly on tributaries of the Mekong River.
It’s been almost 10 years since I was in Laos reporting on the dangers being predicted from these dams. I took a long tail boat to what’s called the Siphandone or “four thousand islands” in Southern Laos near the Cambodian border. These waters are home to one of the most magical species on earth – the Irrawaddy dolphins, which were threatened by the construction of the dams. Most recent population figures estimate between 78 and 91 are left. We stopped within sight of the dolphin feeding grounds. Suddenly, a gray fin sliced the water. In a flash, there was another. The Mekong River is wild and unforgettable.
It’s also is well suited for hydropower, and officials there want Laos to become what they call “the battery of Southeast Asia.” Earning billions by building dams and selling the electricity they produce to neighboring countries. But also threatening wildlife and people, their rice fields and riverbank gardens flooded, their fisheries — and even now their lives — lost.
For more context, click on the image above to listen to my story. Filed in 2009 but, sadly, more relevant than ever today.
With warmest regards,
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