The Threat of a Dam Disaster in Luang Prabang

Building a huge dam just upstream from a legendary UNESCO World Heritage site in an earthquake prone region poses serious risk to the local population and the town of Luang Prabang, warns a leading Thai earthquake specialist.

Dr. Punya Churasiri, formerly the earthquake expert at Chulalungkorn University’s geology department, has considerable field research experience in northern Laos. As construction on the dam moved forward, he told The Diplomat, “We worry about what could happen and the possibility of damage to the World Heritage site.”

The main developer and builder of the dam is the Thai construction giant CH Karnchang corporation. The dam site sits precariously close to an active earthquake faultline only 8.6 kilometers away. A sharp reminder of the danger was provided on July 7, when a 4.7 strong earthquake was registered in Luang Prabang district.

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Tom Fawthrop