Viewpoint: Impending Luang Prabang Dam Sparks Unesco Heritage Impact Assessment
When the Luang Prabang dam – 25-kilometers north of the city – began moving forward, Unesco expressed concern on the suitability and safety of the site in March, and the Lao PDR government is now undertaking a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA), triggered by Unesco.
“We kept insisting on this and eventually the Lao government agreed to do so. The assessment has been undertaken recently and it may take several months. […] Hopefully, it can finish by this year,” the source, who works on assessing the state of Unesco protection in the region, told The Third Pole.
On the banks of the Mekong, Luang Prabang was granted Unesco World Heritage status in 1996. Since then, a heavy influx of infrastructure and tourists has transformed the sleepy former capital into a regional travel hub. The culmination of the breakneck development is China’s USD 5.9 billion Boten-Vientiane Railway, which has already arrived at Luang Prabang from the south.
“The state of conservation of this property will be examined in the forthcoming extended 44th session of the World Heritage Committee (16-31, July 2021),” Mechtild Rössler, Director of the World Heritage Centre, told The Third Pole. “The property has been subject to a number of World Heritage Committee decisions on its state of conservation since 1996. In 2020, the Secretariat of the World Heritage Convention (WHC) requested the State Party of Lao PDR to submit a state of conservation report.”
By signing the WHC, countries pledge “not to take any deliberate measures which might directly or indirectly damage the natural and cultural heritage” and “ensure the protection and conservation of their Outstanding Universal Value and other heritage values.”
Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.