‘Our River Was Like a God’: How Dams and China’s Might Imperil the Mekong

ON THE MEKONG RIVER — When the Chinese came to the village of Lat Thahae, perched on a muddy bend of a Mekong River tributary, they scrawled a Chinese character on the walls of homes, schools and Buddhist temples.

No one in this isolated hamlet in northern Laos could read what it said. But the character means “demolish” — the fate of hundreds of communities along Asia’s great river reduced to a single foreign word.

This year, a dam will begin transforming this stretch of jagged hills and pristine jungle in one of the world’s most remote countries, part of a broader effort to propel some of Asia’s least-developed economies. It is one of seven Chinese-built hydropower projects on the Nam Ou River.

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Hannah Beech