In Laos, A Chinese-Funded Railway Sparks Hope For Growth And Fears Of Debt

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Support for this podcast and the following message. Come from Fidelity Investments, taking a personalized approach to helping you grow and protect your wealth. Learn more at fidelity dot com slash wealth. Fidelity brokerage is services LLC. Now. Let's look south of China's capital. Sixteen hundred miles to Laos China is building a railway in Laos and our producer. Ashley, western visited. Ashley what you learn. I learned that locals are concerned about one of China's global projects and the nickname of Laos is a clue what that problem is the nickname. Yes, lousy is known is the land of a million elephants, but elephants are getting scarce and at the elephant conservation centre. I learned more about how the railway could make things worse. I was there at snack time on a warm spring after noon, five female Asian elephants each over seven feet tall. And weighing some six thousand pounds were standing in the shade munching on sugarcane and banana tree stocks fed to them by their handlers. Or moods elephant guide punks of Optima Liat town waves toward the largest elephant eloquent be called nameless mic when to. This sanctuary opened in two thousand one and with support from the government is the only conservation park for elephants in Laos. Currently there's twenty nine elephants here. Most of them brought here after years of working in the country's logging industry. The goal is to breed them in captivity and eventually released them into the wild. Berry importance for the allow people because we respect the elephants. You know, longtime uncles like a Buddha to this day. Elephants remain, a cultural icon in Laos marching in parades for holidays, and celebrations and Malaya's tongue says there used to be thousands of elephants here. But now there are only about eight hundred left four hundred in captivity and another four hundred in the wild both populations are not sustainable and are actually declining biologist Annabelle Lopez. Perez has a reason for it Laos change. We seventy percent covered by forests to be now forty percent cover by floors. And these grade in other problem that score that fragmentation habitat fragmentation. Now, a massive new China-funded rail projects slated for the northern part of the country has some conservationists worried like Peres worried that the elephants remaining habitat will be threatened. You will affect not only elephants, but. Old wildlife. The Laos government insists that when the high-speed train starts running in twenty twenty one that it will bring much needed jobs and more tourism to the country, yet, many experts actually don't think it will help ordinary Lao. People at all. The famous downtown night market in Luang Prabang is already a huge tourist attraction under the shadow of the sacred mount Pusey the stalls stretch for several blocks, and you can buy almost anything to allow tea or no just coughing. JJ cheap. Now, Lou opera Vong will be one of the major stops on the new railway, but even without a train. This picturesque town on the MAI. Cong river has become a popular tourist destination on its own stats from local officials show that the number of tourists to Luang Prabang has jumped more than six hundred percent since two thousand in a majority of them are Chinese. But not everyone is thrilled with all these tourists more. Do they want more all the money? Go back to China. Not for a few streets down I met Coon. That's the name. He chose to identify himself with because she's afraid that talking to the media will lead to retribution from Laos communist government says Chinese tourists tend to only Chinese tour groups stay in Chinese run hotels and eat a Chinese run restaurants. Also, I've already that than the train complete many Chinese people who stay it allows. So Steve he's saying that he's afraid Chinese immigrants take jobs away from Lao? People perspective on one of China's many construction projects round the world NPR's, actually, western thanks much. Welcome.

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