But these rivers that are the lifeline of rural communities and local economies are being blocked, diverted and decimated by dams. The Lao government hopes to transform the country into “the battery of Southeast Asia” by exporting the power to Thailand and Vietnam. The companies and investors driving the current Lao hydro-boom hail from Thailand, China, Vietnam and Malaysia, though the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and companies from
Lao rivers and lands are also threatened by mining, rampant logging and land-grabbing for the development of large plantations. These destructive developments are often linked: forests are cleared for plantations, mines and hydro reservoirs; and hydropower is generated to fuel mining operations. Most of Lao hydropower, gold, copper, timber and rubber is shipped to Thailand, Vietnam and China. Alternative development paths do exist: researchers and development agencies have pointed to solutions that would improve the security, resillience and sustainability of rural livelihoods, and the management of the Lao economy as a whole, but these solutions have not been adopted by the Lao government or big donor agencies.
International Rivers works to stop destructive hydropower projects in Laos and advocates for the rights of communities affected by dams, such as Nam Theun 2, Theun-Hinboun, and the Theun-Hinboun Expansion Project.
- Read International Rivers' report Power Surge: The Impacts of Rapid Dam Development in Laos.