Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Laos dam collapse survivors ‘still homeless’



Laos dam collapse survivors ‘still homeless’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The disaster is believed to be the deadliest dam accident in Laos history and allegations have pointed to construction flaws by the builder. AFP

Laos dam collapse survivors ‘still homeless’

Thousands are languishing in displacement camps in Laos a year after a dam break unleashed floodwaters and killed dozens of people in the impoverished state, a new report on the anniversary of the disaster said on Tuesday.

For the past decade, Laos has been on a dam-building spree to serve as the “battery of Asia”, but experts have long warned about environmental dangers and the breakneck construction pace.

An auxiliary dam at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy hydroelectric project in southern Laoscollapsed on July 23 last year under the pressure of rising monsoon waters, sending floods downstream and killing an estimated 71 people though the official toll is lower.

The disaster is believed to be the deadliest dam accident in Laos history and allegations have pointed to construction flaws by the builder.

The report by conservation groups said nearly 5,000 people are living “hand to mouth” in camps without adequate food and housing while firms behind the $1 billion project have yet to adequately compensate victims.

International Rivers, which released the findings, said the disaster should serve as a lesson for the hundreds of other dams planned in Laos and other countries along the Mekong river.

“For too long, repeated warnings from scientists, communities and civil society have been disregarded,” International Rivers Southeast Asian programme director Maureen Harris said.

The displaced residents in Laos are living in stuffy prefabricated structures and subsisting on meagre rations, according to the report.

Families of victims have received government payouts but the new report is calling on developers to step up and use insurance money to address claims.

An official from the South Korean builder SK E&C, one of the firms involved in the consortium managing the project, said that it is “willing to actively cooperate” once the Laos government investigation findings are released.

Laos is an authoritarian one-party state unused to the outside scrutiny brought by the collapse.

Its prime minister said in rare comments last year that the communist country will press on with its ambitious hydropower strategy but vowed to intensify oversight.

The Xe Pian Xe Namnoy project is expected to send most of its electricity to Thailand and may be operational later this year.

Experts say the sprint to build dams in the power-hungry region threatens the flow of the Mekong, disturbing fish migration and seasonal flooding patterns for millions living along its banks in neighbouring countries.

The river starts in China and crawls down along eastern Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, ending in Vietnam.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants