Bolaven Plateau in Laos Soon with an Airport?

Laos, Champassak, China, development, community

Katamtok Waterfall, Bolaven Plateau soon neighbouring an airport? (Photo: Ronan Crowley, Flickr)

Bolaven Plateau is known for its pristine landscapes with many rivers crossing the area and forming waterfalls. It is a well known destination for locals in Champassak Province in Southern Laos. However, rumours talk about an airport to be build by Chinese investors…

Bolaven Plateau lies between the Annamite Mountain Range and the Mekong River in Southern Laos. The plateau’s elevation ranges approximately from 1,000 to 1,350 metres and is well known for its beautiful rivers and spectacular waterfalls. This is also a well known place for coffee lovers as some of the most aromatic coffee in Southeast Asia is produced.

However for how long? The local magazine Vientiane Times is reporting that a Chinese firm is carrying out a feasibility study for the development of a new township on the Bolaven Plateau. It would include the construction of an international airport, a modern town, natural tourism sites and seeking large-scale land concession for agricultural production and animal breeding – naturally for exclusive export to China.  The company is also keen to promote organic crop production and build factories to process crops produced on the plateau for export to China.

The project is still in the stage of study but local critics start to mount as such a development would definitely alter and destroy a precious tourism asset. They are especially several National Protected Areas, along with remote hill tribe communities and dense jungle which gives Bolaven its unique appeal.

They are also questions about the necessity to build a new airport as Pakse International Airport exists already and is easily accessible from Bolaven Plateau.

Deputy Governor of Champassak province Somsanith Bouttivong told the Vientiane Times a couple of days ago that the survey aims to collect data to design for potential future airport development.

“At the moment, we are conducting surveys for two new airport development projects in Champassak province because we believe that our existing international airport might not be able to accommodate the growth of aviation in the next 3-4 decades while Pakse airport is space-constraint,” the Deputy Governor indicated to the Vientiane Times.

A meeting occured on June 22 with representatives from Chinese companies as well as  Champassak Provincial Department of Natural Resource and Environment and Pakxong district. The National Economic Research Institute is developing a master plan that runs until 2030 with a view to turning the Bolaven Plateau into the country’s top agri-business and agro-tourism destination. The project would cover an area of 497,199 hectares but critics believe that retransforming tourism will make Bolaven losing its authenticity with a danger of turning the area into a Chinese style tourist trap…