In 2010 I was in Laos for the first time. Spent four weeks mostly in the South, surrounded by untouched nature, learning how small local communities were depending on the natural resources available to them: rivers, forests, fishing, hunting and farming.
I have been there again this year; a lot has changed and there is no doubt that Laos is dying. And it is happening fast!
Hydropower mega-projects, mining, massive coffee plantations and logging have already caused an incredible degradation of the environment, land confiscation and forced relocation. Sometimes a compensation is given to the moved people, but those are families who are not used to handle big amounts of money. Usually, most of it is spent on buying unnecessary SUVs or on building oversized houses, with everyone racing to add the highest number of useless concrete columns.
Being a witness of this ongoing destruction makes you feel powerless. You feel so small when looking at Chinese concrete factories literally eating up mountains or at immense valleys - green and full of life in my memories - now flooded because of a dam, with black dead trees appearing from the water like scary ghosts in a horror movie.