Controversial Mekong dam in Laos faces economic and regulatory hurdles

The fishing village of Khoen Khen in southern Laos is a quiet place, nestled along the banks of the Mekong River and hemmed by a ridge of mountains. But tranquil as it may now appear, locals say they’re waiting for a coming wave of construction that promises to uproot their village entirely.

The 728-megawatt Phou Ngoy dam is one of a proposed cascade of nine dams on the mainstream of the Mekong in Laos. Costing an estimated USD 1.96 billion according to the Mekong River Commission (MRC), the dam is seen as a key expansion of the country’s already burgeoning hydropower sector – a strategic economic pillar that experts say is exacting a steep environmental cost.

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Andrew Haffner