My first full day in Laos was a busy one. The day was highlighted by a trip to the Theun-Hinboun Power Company, nestled in the valley of the Nam Kading National Biodiversity Conservation Area. The trip was a little over 4 hours on one of the craziest roads I’ve been on – pretty much a two-lane highway with the villagers’ shops and homes within feet of the road. There we tanker trucks, motorcycles, kids on bikes, cattle, goats, cars, trucks, and SUVs. As night fell, children could be seen in the ditches catching frogs to be sold at their family’s shop the next day. There was a lot of burning to clear dead grass and weeds in preparation for the rainy season.
The meeting included a number of people from many organizations, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the World Wildlife Fund, and representatives of the hydropower company. The goal of the meeting was to discuss the relocation of the villagers displaced by the reservoir powering the hydro dam, getting them set up with a functional land use pattern that allowed the villagers to have their own land, as well as access to the public lands from which they gather the resources they need. Although the meeting was held in traditional Lao, I fully believe it was one of the more productive meetings I have ever been to.
The ride back was as exciting as the ride there. Since we had arrived late the evening prior, I did not get to appreciate the amazing views of the mountains or the winding road we had to take in and out of the valley. The road was full of tight blind curves, slow-moving tankers, trucks that had overheated, large boulders in the middle of the road, and random patches of gravel and roadwork. When we got to the top, we had a chance to stop and take some pictures of the breathtaking scenery.
Above: children at their family’s shop along the road; live fish in a barrel; fried fish.