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Lao government to inspect all dams, stop new hydro projects

Staff Writer |
The Lao government has announced it will examine the safety standards applied to the construction of hydropower dams across the country following the deadly disaster caused by the collapse of a dam in Attapeu province in the south, local media reported Wednesday.

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The cabinet made the announcement shortly after its two-day extraordinary meeting which ended on Tuesday.

Chaired by Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, the meeting heard of the progress made in dealing with the aftermath of the disaster in Sanamxay district of Attapeu province.

The meeting agreed to carry out inspections into all dams, both those that are completed and whose construction is underway.

The Ministry of Energy and Mines will work with the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Ministry of Science and Technology and international experts in carrying out the inspections.

Any irregularities found in the design or construction standard of a dam must be reported to the government on a case-by-case basis, so that improvements can be made, local daily Vientiane Times reported on Wednesday.

The Lao government has also decided to suspend the consideration of new investments in hydropower projects in order to review its hydropower development strategy and plans.

The reviewed strategy and plans will be used as a reference for future direction, the report said.

The meeting, attended by cabinet members, agreed to establish a taskforce committee to lead the investigation into the reason of the collapse of saddle dam D, one of five auxiliary dams at the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower project in Attapeu, some 560 km southeast of capital Vientiane.

The failure of the dam on July 23 flooded 13 villages in Sanamxay district, leaving 34 people dead as of Tuesday while 97 villagers still missing, and over 6,000 homeless.

The investigation committee is chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Government Inspection Authority Bounthong Chitmany.

The committee welcomes the help of international experts in carrying out the investigation and verifying the cause of the dam fracture.

The committee will also invite representatives of the governments of South Korea and Thailand, whose companies were stakeholders in the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower project, to provide consultation and observe the investigation process.

This will ensure the thoroughness and transparency of the investigation so that the findings are recognized and accepted internationally, the report said.

Once the findings are made known, the government will proceed with the next steps.

The meeting also agreed to establish a high-level committee, supervised by Bounthong, to investigate the responsibility of state authorities for the dam failure, as well as those in charge of issuing warnings ahead of the disaster.

The National Ad Hoc Committee in charge of dealing with the aftermath of the Sanamxay flood was told to collect comprehensive information on the losses and damage caused by the disaster.

The Ad Hoc Committee was also entrusted to draw up short-term and longer term plans to recover the damage and losses and report to the government so that investment in the recovery could be prioritized.

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