Laos Needs Improved Hydropower Safety Legislation: Energy Minister

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Nam Theun 1 Hydropower Project Begins Water Storage
Nam Theun 1 Dam as it begins water storage (April 2021)

Lao Minister of Energy and Mines, Mr. Daovong Phonekeo, says enacting a specific law to ensure dam safety is a vital part of the country’s efforts to achieve sustainable energy development.

Minister Daovong told the National Assembly on Thursday that while there are regulations and standards controlling the construction and operation of hydropower facilities, there is no law that expressly addresses safety measures.

“The lack of a law in relation to dam safety management hinders the standardized inspection of dams to prevent accidents,” he was quoted as saying by Vientiane Times.

He stated that inadequate or ineffective inspection procedures pose immense safety risks and that this issue should be quickly resolved.

The government of Laos completed drafting a law on hydropower safety in January this year, with hopes of having the law passed by parliament.

Nam Ngiep Hydropower Plant (February 2020)
Nam Ngiep Hydropower Plant (February 2020)

The law covers dams and hydropower installations and sets standards or quality control procedures for each phase of construction.

Speaking at a conference held in January, Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines, Mr. Sinava Souphanouvong, said “three hydropower installations have already collapsed or witnessed accidents in 2015, 2017, and 2018.”

July 2018 saw the worst hydropower accident in the nation’s history as 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 the accident caused massive damage to private property and infrastructure.