The massive influx of tourists seeking disconnection through relaxation, comfort and holiday packages, has caused the homogenization and degradation of many destinations. In authoritarian or semi-authoritarian countries this disconnection is also fomented by local governments, keeping tourists away from the social and environmental problems local communities face. Tourists are expected to stay on the routes of mass tourism and holiday attractions. Such is the case of Laos.
In Laos standardized tours with boat trips, waterfalls and golden stupas keep the tourist away from environmental and social conflicts that matter. Just 30 km to the north of Luang Prabang, the “the world’s most relaxing destination”, a huge problem is hidden – the destruction of the Nam Ou River.
Girl playing next to Hat Sa Village.
Nam Ou River
Muang Noy is the commercial centre where locals sell their products once a week.
Born in the mountains of Northern Laos this river makes a 448 kilometres route through pristine mountains, forested valleys and stunning limestone cliffs that are threatened by 7 large dams.
Limestone karst at the Nam Ou River
Until recent years it was possible to travel by boat along the whole river. Now, these hydropower projects are under construction, blocking the movement of tourists, indigenous people and wildlife and flooding 400 square kilometres of unexplored nature. In November 2017 construction of Nam Ou 3 Dam
already made impossible to travel between Nong Khiaw and Muang Khua, the most beautiful river stretch visited by 25 to 100 people daily.