Luang Prabang on the Mekong – Heritage Be Dammed | A Talk by Tom Fawthrop
About this lecture
The ancient Lao capital of Luang Prabang is widely regarded as one of UNESCO’s finest world heritage sites. But the Lao government’s decision to launch a large dam at a sensitive location only 25 km from the heritage city has spread sadness among many Lao and foreign residents. UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre in Paris is also gravely concerned that the Lao government appears to be in flagrant violation of the international agreement it signed with UNESCO in 1995 to protect its own heritage site. The Luang Prabang dam‘s location also happens to be sited just 8.6 km from an active fault in a known earthquake-prone region of Northern Laos. It seems unbelievable that any government would risk its greatest cultural asset that since its recognition by UNESCO in 1995 had also become their number-one tourist attraction. But Laos is in the throes of a dam-fever with its plan to unleash a cascade of 11 dams along their stretch of the Mekong. What will happen to Luang Prabang? The battle to save world heritage, like the struggle to save biodiversity, is not easy. Many vested financial interests back hydropower. Would the Lao government want to risk the humiliation of being placed on the list of countries with endangered heritage sites? Hopefully Laos will come to realise they have too much to lose, given the international prestige of this world heritage site and its role as the major tourist attraction in the country.
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About the speaker
Mr Tom Fawthrop is an author, journalist and film-maker specialised in coverage of Southeast Asia and a frequent contributor to UK media, including The Economist, Guardian, The Diplomat and other media. As a film-maker, Tom’s main focus has been to highlight threats to the environment and health, with several films on the Mekong and one documentary on the Salween in Myanmar. Tom’s films about the Mekong River have been broadcast on Thai PBS, Cambodian TV and screened at several international film festivals. Among major historical events in Southeast Asia, he was one of very few Western journalists to report from inside Phnom Penh in 1981. Tom has also covered historical events in the Philippines and Timor-Leste.