Laos Dam disaster: Yet another wake up call?

Laos Dam disaster: Yet another wake up call?

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SANDRP
The various aspects of tragic Dam Disaster in the Mekong Basin in Laos are still unfolding. But it is clear from many accounts that it was an avoidable, man-made disaster due to the neglect of contractors, decision makers, consultants and supervising agencies. There is a lot we can learn from this if we want to avoid such disasters in India. We still do not have credible Dam Safety Law or institution, CWC is clearly not the right agency considering the conflict of interest with the various other roles of CWC. But for now, let us look at the reports of Laos Dam Disaster.Reminding the world of one of the worst dam disasters, the under-construction dam Xepian Xe Nam Noy Hydropower project breached releasing 5 billion cubic metres of water in Southern Laos on July 23.
The gushing water current swept the surrounding leading to the death of about 26 people and displacing about 6600 residents. As per report hundreds of people are still missing from neighbouring villages of Yai Thae, Hinlad, Mai, Thasengchan, Tha Hin, and Samong, which bore the brunt of the flooding. The deluge has reportedly destroyed thousands of homes.
As per reports, the energy minister of Laos has blamed substandard quality construction reason behind the collapse. The Laos PM has also termed the incident as the worst disaster in decades.
The hydropower dam project, which is estimated to be worth about $1bn (£760m), is being built by Xe Pien-Xe Namnoy Power Company and is a joint venture between several South Korean and Laos companies. Construction began in 2013 and was due for completion by the end of this year, with plans to start operations in 2019. Environmental campaigners have repeatedly raised
concerns about plans by the govt in Laos to build vast dams across the Mekong river and turn the country into a hydroelectricity hub; 11 large hydropower dams on the Mekong’s mainstream and 120 tributary dams are planned over the next 20 years.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/24/laos-dam-collapse-hundreds-missing (24 July
2018)
The dam was made by a joint venture led by South Korean companies with Thai and Lao partners and was still under construction. KPL described the portion that collapsed as a “saddle dam,” which is an auxiliary dam used to hold water beyond what is held by the main dam. South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency quoted an unidentified official at SK Engineering & Construction, one of the two South Korean partners in the project, as saying rain in the area was triple the usual amount, and one of five auxiliary dams had
overflowed.
PM Thongloun Sisoulith “suspended the planned monthly meeting of the govt for August and led his Cabinet members and other senior officials to Sanamxay (district) to monitor rescue and relief efforts being made for flood victims,” KPL said. According to project assessment documents, about 30 villages were affected by the project with more than 2,000 people in eight villages resettled. Roughly 10,000 people live in the affected area, with most belonging to ethnic minorities. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-24/urgent-hundreds-missing-after-hydroelectric-dam-collapses-in-laos?cmpid=socialflow-twitter-esiness&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=socialflow- oganic&utm_content=asia&utm_medium=social&cmpid%3D=socialflow-twitter-Asia (24 July 2018)
The collapse of Laos dam that triggered massive flooding and devastation was due to “substandard construction,” the country’s Minister of Energy and Mines said July 26. With the rescue effort ongoing, Lao PM Thongloun Sisoulith said it was the worst disaster faced by the small Southeast Asian country in decades.
The damage wasn’t just limited to Laos. On July 26, the Cambodian govt announced it was attempting to evacuate 25,000 people from their northern border with Laos as floodwaters washed into the country.
The dam was built on a tributary of the Mekong River, the longest river in Southeast Asia. The Mekong, which runs from the Tibetan Plateau through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, is an important regional resource, providing fish stocks and electricity — in the form of hydropower — to the people who live along it.
Construction on the dam began in February 2013 and was due to cost an estimated $1.02 billion.
Four companies were in charge of the venture: Ratchaburi, Korea Western Power Co. Ltd., SK Engineering & Construction Co. Ltd and Lao Holding State Enterprise, a state-owned firm, according to a website that appears to belong to the consortium building the dam.
The flooding in southern Laos was expected to cause water levels to rise downstream, according to the Mekong River Commission, the joint Lao-Cambodian-Vietnamese organization that manages the shared resources of the Mekong. The collapsed dam isn’t the only one being built in the Mekong Delta. Critics of the project said dams have an outsized impact on the environment and local ecosystems. https://edition.cnn.com/2018/07/27/asia/laos-dam-collapse-construction-intl/index.html (27 July 2018)
As per the UN report, the dam disaster has affected more than 11,034 people.
https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/laos-dam-collapse-affects-more-than-10-000-people-un-report-10571010 (28 July 2018) — South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People

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