Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World-Heritage city, has attracted a US$2 billion-joint-investment project by ten South Korean companies and four Lao enterprises to develop a new and modern town, covering some 3,000 hectares, in Chomphet district.
The new urban area,
which is expected to take five years to develop, will serve as a comprehensive tourist,
trading, financial and recreational service center, completed with the
construction of a road running through Laos, from China to Thailand. Particularly, there will be five-star hotels,
shopping malls, and a 36 hole-golf course, with resorts, residential areas, and
business service and tourism centers. The
land to be used for this development will partially be leased from the local
people for 50 years, extendable for another 20 years. A memorandum of understanding on this
joint-venture was signed recently between Korean and Lao investors and witnessed
by Luang Prabang Governor Bounheuang Douangpha-chanh as well as other Lao and
Concerns have been raised that while this new town will bring modernity to the people in the area, it may adversely affect the city of Luang Prabang itself. In response to this concern, the Lao government emphasizes that it will put great efforts into maintaining and preserving the World-Heritage status of the city. Standing Deputy Prime Minister Somsavad Lengsavath points out that, for the past twelve years, Laos has followed the international criteria for maintaining the city’s World-Heritage status; thus, Luang Prabang has increasingly received high recognition by the world community, resulting in the increase of visitors. At the same time, he also admitted that there are some aspects, such as the constructions of new buildings, that Lao officials still need to further address.
Meanwhile, an energy investment group from Vietnam announces that it will start building a hydro-power dam on the Mekong River in Luang Prabang Province in 2010, to be completed by 2016 at the latest. With a projected total cost of over US$2 billion, this dam is expected to be able to produce up to 1,410 megawatts of electricity for export to Vietnam. From now until the end of 2009, the Vietnamese investment group will be conducting an environmental impact study to ensure that this dam construction project meets international standards, namely the requirements of the Mekong River Committee, whose member-nations include Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. However, this project is strongly opposed by environmental groups in Southeast Asia, who are concerned that it will have a negative impact on the lives of more than ten million people living near or on the Mekong River as well as the environments and its bio-diversities.
Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao.