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Dangerous dams: Laos and the curse of hydroelectric gold

Laos rarely makes headlines. But on July 23, 2018, the small Southeast Asian country made front pages around the world when a hydroelectric dam on the Mekong River collapsed, engulfing several villages and causing catastrophic flash flooding. Many people were killed – between 36 and several hundred, depending on sources – and many more are still missing. Our reporter investigates a tragedy foretold.

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On July 23, 2018, when a dam collapsed on the Mekong River in Laos, around 500 million tons of muddy water flooded seven villages in the Attapeu province, causing substantial damage. The disaster highlighted the dangers of Laos’s race for hydroelectric power. For a long time, though, environmental groups had been warning of the risks of having so many hydropower projects. Our reporter went to investigate in the south of the country, where the subject of dams remains taboo.

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