Severe storms show how dams, displacement magnify climate impacts in Laos

As a wave of storms drives flooding across Southeast Asia, a community in northern Laos displaced by a hydropower dam says their new homes are no longer safe due to the threat of landslides.

Over 12,000 people have been relocated to allow for the construction of seven dams on the Nam Ou river, a key tributary of the Mekong, in Luang Prabang province. One group of residents relocated for the Nam Ou 3 dam have asked local authorities to help protect the community from landslides in their resettlement village.

“We are very afraid of landslides because our houses were built at the edge of a high cliff,” one resident told Radio Free Asia. “Cracks are showing.” 

As in Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines, weeks of heavy rain have damaged homes and infrastructure in Laos, cracking roads and creating unstable soil conditions. The recent series of storms, including typhoons Vamco and Molave, have displaced thousands in Vietnam and the Philippines, with cities still swamped with flood water and death tolls still rising. The intense rain also means that hillsides in upland areas of Laos and Vietnam—like the site of the Nam Ou 3 resettlement village—are at risk of collapse.

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