Saddle Dam Rebuilt at Xe Pian Xe Namnoy Hydropower Project

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2021
Rebuilt saddle dam at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy hydropower project.
Rebuilt saddle dam at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy hydropower project. (Photo: Target)

The Xe Pian Xe Namnoy hydropower project in Attapeu province has reconstructed a saddle dam at the reservoir following a fatal collapse two years ago which triggered a catastrophic flood.

Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines, Dr. Sinava Souphanouvong, visited the hydropower project on Wednesday to inspect construction standards and ensure the safety of communities living downstream.

In July 2018, the saddle dam at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy hydropower project collapsed after heavy rains, leaving at least 40 people dead and 6,630 living in emergency shelters, while causing severe damage to private property and infrastructure.

The dam was part of a larger hydroelectric project in the region run by the Xe Pian Xe-Namnoy Power Company, a joint venture between SK Engineering & Construction and Korea Western Power, along with other smaller shareholders.

Vientiane Times reported at the time that as the water level rose during the filling of the reservoir, seepage flow developed in the foundation along these paths and horizons with high permeability. This resulted in internal erosion and softening of the laterite soil. When erosion and softening in the foundations reached a certain point, the dam stability was no longer ensured, and a deep rotational sliding at the highest section of the saddle dam was triggered.

While the original saddle dam was made of soil, officials have stated that the new saddle dam is made of concrete.

“It is solid and strong and has been built under the guidance of specialist engineers from international energy companies,” project officials said in a statement to the media.

Following the incident in 2018, the Lao government has placed hydropower projects under greater scrutiny, with departments ordered to inspect all dams under construction and ensure their safety.

In March this year, the Government of Laos set up a committee of local and foreign experts to undertake dam safety inspections which will regularly examine the standards of all hydropower projects in Laos to ensure the safety of people living downstream.