Workers prepare ground for Laos-China railway
The construction of workers' camps for the Laos-China railway is under way in Luang Namtha province but there is much to be done before work on the railway itself can begin.
There are now 200 or 300 Chinese workers in the camps, but they are unable to work on the railway as unexploded ordnance (UXO) has not been cleared from the area.
A provincial coordinator of the Laos-China project, Mr Chanthachone Keolakhone, told Vientiane Times they were waiting for UXO clearance by the Ministry of National Defence.
“Many workers come and tell us they want to work on railway construction,” he said.
Boten, Tinsan and Nateuy villages in Luang Namtha district are close to the construction site.
People living in Nateuy village say they have seen a lot of cluster munitions, known in Laos as bombies, in their neighbourhood but not many in other places.
The railway builders will be able to move full steam ahead with the project after clearance teams from the Ministry of National Defence remove the sub-munitions. The area where most are thought to be buried is about 16.9 kilometres long.
A bridge across the Mekong River in Luang Prabang province will be part of the planned 417-km railway running from the Chinese border to Vientiane through the provinces of Luang Namtha, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang, and Vientiane.
In Luang Namtha province, the railway will pass through the district of Luang Namtha, while in Oudomxay it will pass through the districts of Xay, Nga and Namor.
In Luang Prabang province it will pass through the districts of Chomphet, Luang Prabang and Xiengngeun, and in Vientiane province it will pass through the districts of Hinheup, Vangvieng, Kasy and Phonhong.
The railway is estimated to cost US$5.8 billion and will run from the border area of Boten in Luang Namtha province to Vientiane. It is scheduled for completion in 2021 and is 70 percent owned by China and 30 percent by Laos.
Passenger trains will travel at 160 km per hour, while the speed of rail freight will be 120 km per hour.
Construction of the Laos-China railway was officially opened in Luang Prabang province on December 25 last year.
By Khonesavanh Latsaphao
(Latest Update January 23, 2017)