UNESCO has requested a new assessment for a large-scale Lao Mekong River dam located near a World Heritage Site, fearing that the dam’s potential impact could put the site at risk.
According to UNESCO, the town of Luang Prabang is “an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries.” Luang Prabang celebrated its 25th anniversary as a World Heritage Site last year.
Nearby construction on the 1,460 megawatt, U.S. $3 billion run-of-river Luang Prabang Dam, a joint venture of Petro Vietnam Power Corporation, Ch. Karnchang and the Lao government, is scheduled to begin this year and finish in 2027.
It is part of a cascade of 11 Mekong mainstream dams that are the centerpiece of Laos’ controversial economic strategy to become the “Battery of Southeast Asia.”
“In March 2020, we were informed that there is this hydropower project, which is planned to be at about 25 kilometers upstream from Luang Prabang. Now, this is of course outside of the World Heritage Site,” Dr. Mechtild Rossler, Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Center told RFA’s Lao Service Feb. 26.
“But as it is quite close to the site, and as the Mekong River Commission expressed concerns about the security and safety standards, we have been looking into that question.”