Fears grow that dam across Mekong River in Laos could harm World Heritage site of Luang Prabang

LUANG PRABANG, Laos (AP) — Landlocked Laos doesn’t have the famous beaches of its neighbors to attract tourists, but instead relies on the pristine beauty of its mountains and rivers and historical sites to bring in visitors.

The crown jewel is Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where legend has it that Buddha once rested during his travels. It brings all the elements together, with its mix of historic Laotian and French colonial architecture on a peninsula at the confluence of the Mekong and the Nam Khan rivers.

But a multibillion-dollar dam project underway 25 kilometers (15 miles) upstream has prompted concerns that it could result in the city losing its UNESCO status, and broader questions about what the government’s ambitious plans to build multiple dams across the Mekong will do to the river, the lifeblood of Southeast Asia.