Laos Energy Ministry Places Dams on Notice Amid Wet Season Storage

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A hydropower dam in Laos

The Ministry of Energy and Mines has placed hydropower projects on notice across the country, telling them to ensure emergency plans are in place this wet season.

The ministry issued a notice yesterday stating that it had observed several dams and hydroelectric plants had been storing considerable quantities of water, saying that dams must ensure appropriate water management and emergency planning.

All hydroelectric projects have been urged to maintain the utmost caution, monitor storm-related weather patterns, and be mindful of the quantity of water that may enter basins.

In addition, all dams must ensure that existing infrastructure and equipment related to floodgates are in full working order and ready for operation.

According to the ministry, requests for the release of water must be submitted directly to the Department of Energy Policy and Planning seven days ahead of any activity.

Meanwhile, hydropower projects must ensure they are fully prepared for all kinds of emergencies, with emergency plans relayed to local authorities and populations of nearby settlements in detail.

Dams have also been instructed to conduct routine instrumented and visual inspections.

Nam Theun 1 speaks out about perceived leak
The Nam Theun 1 Hydropower Project.

The notice follows a statement made by the Nam Theun 1 Power Company yesterday after viral video of seepage near the dam wall drew public concern.

Representatives from the hydropower project denied claims that the dam was unsafe, saying that experts had surveyed the area and confirmed that the seepage posed no danger to the integrity of the dam.

Substandard construction at the Xe-Pian Xe-Nam Noy Dam caused its saddle dam to collapse on 23 July, 2018, leading to catastrophic damage in Sanamxay District, Attapeu Province, with hundreds of people dead or missing and thousands displaced.

The government responded by initially suspending all new hydropower projects and forming a committee of experts to inspect all existing projects.

A draft law on hydropower safety was approved at the Third Ordinary Session of the National Assembly (Ninth Legislature) earlier this month.