Date of Award

January 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography & Geographic Information Science

First Advisor

Enru Wang


The country of Laos is a developing nation that is geographically endowed with significant hydropower assets. Hydropower represents one of very few quick and profitable, exportable resources for Laos as a least developed country, and is seen as the avenue of escape from poverty for the nation. In the past two decades, Laos has seen both booms and busts in hydropower development, which has raised questions to hydropower's actual contributions to economic growth, and the consequences of large scale hydropower development.

This research examines trends and patterns in Laotian hydropower development in the past two decades. The study analyzes contributing factors to development patterns in terms of investment, policy, and geopolitic. Several consequences of hydropower development in Laos are also discussed. Overall I find that despite positive statements concerning hydropower, the actual contributions hydropower has in the Laotian context are smaller than anticipated. These benefits need to be weighed against the potential consequences that this type of development may have over longer periods of time.