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Plans on track for commercial development at Khonphapheng waterfall

Preparations for a vast development around one of Laos’ most stunning sights – the Khonphapheng waterfall on the Mekong River in Champassak province – are going ahead as planned.
The massive cascade is the largest in South-East Asia and lies about 80km from the provincial capital Pakxe, not far from the Cambodian border. It is a popular tourist attraction.

Now provincial authorities and a Chinese company are setting up the Khonphapheng Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and officials are discussing various issues with the Chinese firm to find common ground before a concession agreement can be signed. 
In January this year, the Guangdong Yellow River Industrial Group presented the results of a project survey to the Ministry of Planning and Investment.
The company also presented a video clip featuring a master plan that detailed development of the project up until 2050, which would have multi-storey buildings serving as hotels, restaurants, a shopping centre and other tourism-related businesses.
Officials in charge said all aspects of the US$10 billion project would have to be submitted to the government and National Assembly for consideration and approval.
Director of the Planning and Investment Department, Mr Saithong Xayavong, told Vientiane Times on Friday the Guangdong Yellow River Industrial Group had shown a genuine interest in investing in the project.
Champassak provincial authorities had allocated over 7,000 hectares of land for the development but the company says it needs 9,000 hectares.
Deputy Governor of Champassak province Mr Buasone Vongsongkhone said “We have the space to give 9,000 hectares but it will depend on the government’s decision in this regard.”
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the government and the Guangdong Yellow River Industrial Group in the middle of last year, allowing the company to conduct a feasibility study and create a project design.
Mr Saithong was unable to say when a concession agreement might be signed, but said the MOU gave the company 18 months to complete the feasibility study and project design.
Chairman of the Champassak provincial SEZ Authority, Mr Khamphon Nuansengsy, said the authorities and the company are discussing how the project would benefit both sides.
Local authorities were interested in how the project would positively impact the development of the province as well as the livelihoods of local people.
They emphasised that villagers displaced by the development would need to be fairly compensated for the loss of their land and other property based on the current market value. Plans for their relocation must ensure they would have better living conditions or equivalent to those they had previously.
Officials said it was essential to explain the importance of the development to the local community as well as how people might benefit from it. A significant feature of the project is that it has the potential to provide locals with numerous job opportunities.
In the first phase of the planned project (2018-2025), the company would install infrastructure such as roads, water supply and drainage. The second phase may include an airport to cater for the anticipated large number of visitors and business operators, which would be considerable given the scale of the development.

By Somsack Pongkhao
(Latest Update
March 27,
2018


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