Trip to Xayaburi and Luang Prabang
My latest trip was to Xayaburi and Luang Prabang provinces and featured a visit to the site of a controversial dam project, the delivery of books to school children in a remote village and a ride on the back of an elephant.
The trip started with a courtesy call on the Vice Governor of Xayaburi Province, Mr. Yanyong Sipaseuth, where we discussed issues such as a recent outbreak of avian influenza in the province in chickens imported from China and environmental concerns over a dam that is being constructed in Xayaburi province on the main stem of the Mekong River. The Vice Governor was very pleased that we took the time to come to Xayaburi to witness the construction and learn about the dam first hand.
Meeting with Xayaburi Vice Governor Mr. Yanyong Sipaseuth
We then visited the dam itself, which is now 23% complete and expected to be operational in 2019. In an interview with a Vientiane Times reporter on the site, I noted that, while hydropower can play an important role in economic development, it is important to minimize downstream environmental impacts. I also described the technical assistance that the U.S. is providing to the Lao Government on issues such as fish migration, sediment flows, and dam operation and safety. The builders and operators of the dam emphasized the extensive redesign and scientific research they had undertaken to mitigate negative downstream impacts on fish, agriculture and the environment.
Visiting dam construction site in Xayaburi Province
Our day in Luang Prabang started off with the opening ceremony at the H7N9 Workshop attended by the Chief of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Minister of Health and officials from three northern provinces. We then paid a short visit to a new provincial blood transfusion center that was constructed and equipped by the United States Government. It was uplifting to see how the center’s blood testing capabilities have been expanded through our support.
Visiting new blood center in Luang Prabang
That afternoon, in one of the real highlights of the trip, my wife, Judy, and I joined the “Book Boat” up the Mekong River to deliver school books and supplies to a remote village called Ban Pak Ou, near the famous Pak Ou caves. While there, Judy read a book to the children, and we enjoyed a puppet show and watched the children play outdoor games.
Judy reading to children in Ban Pak Ou
On our day off, we took a trip to the nearby Elephant Village and enjoyed a leisurely elephant ride. Judy was very good at being a mahout!