Laos Suspends New Dam Projects Following Catastrophe

PAKSE, LAOS The Laos government will suspend approval of new dams while it reviews more than 50 current projects following the catastrophic collapse of a hydropower facility late last month.

Kanya Khammoungkhoun, Deputy Director General of the Department of International Organizations at the Laos Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told VOA a wide scale review of the country’s dam projects would be launched in the wake of the disaster, which killed scores of people and displaced more than 10,000 others in two countries.

Over 50 dams in the country will be re-investigated and monitored closely together with the technical, double check the technical with all those dams under construction, he said. And the suspension of the further, of the approval of the new project until everything is further confirmed.

On July 23, an auxiliary dam at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy dam cluster collapsed unleashing five billion cubic meters of water onto downstream villages in Attapeu province’s Sanamxai district.

An estimated 6,000 people were displaced in Laos; more than 30 have been confirmed dead and more than 100 remain missing. Rescuers hold out little hope of finding more survivors.

Some 5,000 people were also displaced about 130 kilometers downstream on the Sekong river at the northern Cambodian town of Siem Pang.

Survivors in Sanamxai district have told VOA that authorities misled them about the nature of the pending disaster hours after PNPC, the joint venture building the unfinished project, warned the dam was about to collapse.

One of the major firms in that joint venture – South Korea’s SK Engineering and Construction – repeatedly refused to comment when approached by VOA reporters at a disaster center they have set up in Sanamxai.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Lao Minister of Energy and Mines Khammany Inthirath said substandard construction, combined with unexpected rainfall, was to blame for the collapse of Saddle Dam D at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy project, according to the Laotian Times.

Source: Voice of America