Development and Displacement in Laos
An overlook at the rapid development taking place in the region today
focusing on the major changes derived by the exploitation of the
Mekong River by neighbouring countries.
This article was also published on the official Leica Camera Blog
Laos being a land-locked country surrounded by other countries with equal cheap labour but cheaper transportation to the markets, foreign investment did not focus on labour-intensive industries, but on the exploitation of its natural resources.
Hydroelectricity in particular has been a popular, if somewhat controversial, source if revenue to Laos, and hydroelectric dams have been built on several tributaries of the Mekong causing severe consequences to the ecosystem as well as the displacement of entire communities onto newly built resettlement areas.
‘Yes. Living here [in the resettlement site] is comfortable in terms of having roads, a clinic,
a school, access to the market, but we don’t have the most important thing: land. So we now
have access to the market, but we can’t sell anything. Because we can’t grow our own food like we used to, we have to buy food. But because we can’t grow enough coffee to sell [profitably], we can’t buy food either.’
‘It’s very simple: if they take our land, they have to give us new land!
But the government must understand, we don’t want money we want land. Land is much more
important to us than money. And we don’t want just any type of land, we want land that is as good as our current land. [...] That land is the most important to us.’
Claudio Delang, Hydropower induced displacement and resettlement in Lao PDR, SOUTH EAST ASIA RESEARCH · 08.2011