Surrounded by deep forests anywhere in the northwest of Laos, lies the little place of Hongsa. It's known for it's annual elephant roundup and, since a few years, for a new coal power plant. The 6,000 inhabitants are mostly of the Tai Lue tribe. Hongsa lies in Sainyabuli Province and is about 80km away from Sainyabuli town.
I made it to here in late 2011, when coming from Chiang Khong on the way to Vientiane. I did hiking and hitch-hiking from Houayxay on and went over long mountain ridges to Ban Pak Beng. Next morning I went a few kilometers on the ferry to Luang Prabang on the Mekong downstreams, until we stopped at a hamlet on the right river side. There I left the boat and waited for a lift to Hongsa, what took quite a time. These places were, at the time, very remote and there was little traffic on the extremely dusty dirt roads.
Traditionally, the economy is based on agriculture, among it much rice cultivation. Now, it seems, things have changed. The announced large coal power plant with all it's implications provides allegedly 3,000 jobs. It's a lignite fired 1,878 megawatt plant, of which 1,500 megawatt are exported to Thailand, which is by 80% also the main investor (Thai banks and construction companies, probably). The 3,7 billion US$ investment is the largest power plant of the kind in Laos.
This power plant causes a great amount of air pollution; besides, it's fed by lignite which is exploited in the nearby surroundings, what causes additional harm to the environment, including deforestation. Also natural water resources are getting consumed by the plant, and dams have been erected who mean a further impact on the nature. The plant was expected to run from 2015 on.
The annual elephant roundup is very famous in the wider surroundings and attracts allegedly as many people as 50,000 when being held. In the district is also an Elephant Conservation Center established.
This article is based on a visit to Hongsa in late 2011. For literature on this website project, have a look on the Literature page. I made a small internet query for getting more information on the small place.