Laos, a country that is typically described as poor, isolated and underdeveloped, has ambitious plans for its rail development. At present, there is only 3.5 kilometers of rail track across Mekong River, connecting it to Thailand. The Laos government aims to build on that by creating a network of routes that would eventually link it to neighboring China, Vietnam and Cambodia. The entire project is estimated to cost US $13 billion, and Laos is seeking funding from the Chinese government.

A complex process of changes- social, economic and ecological- would inevitably result. While possibly generating economic benefits, the railway project could cause groups of people to experience new poverty. Villages will be displaced, communities will break up, and agricultural land and forests will be destroyed. Those who will be affected, mostly rural villagers who depend on their land for livelihood, have no control over the turn of events.

Could its dream be a nightmare in disguise?

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