The recent decision by the government of Laos to green light the long delayed construction of the massive Xayaburi Dam made headlines across the world. Most analysts and commentators agree the move is controversial, as the dam will likely have significant negative environmental effects within Laos as well as in Cambodia and Vietnam, which lie further down the Mekong.
It is believed that the small Southeast Asian country is planning to build up to seventy hydroelectric dams along the Mekong River and its tributaries, an increase from the previous but already significant estimate of 55. This construction boom will have wider repercussions than extensive environmental damage. It has the potential to alter the geopolitical balance in Southeast Asia.
Even though the Laotian economy has been growing steadily over recent years, the country remains one of the most underdeveloped in Asia. Its gross domestic product per capita (at purchasing power parity) in 2011 was $2,700 and according to World Bank data only 71 percent of the country’s population had access to electricity in 2010. Read more “Laos’ Hydropower Boom Attracts Regional Attention”