Lao hydropower dam disaster offers great lessons on safety: expert

VietNamNet Bridge - The hydropower dam collapse in Laos should be seen as a valuable lesson about dam safety, according to Dao Trong Tu from the Vietnam River Network.


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Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy dam, part of the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydro power project, which involves Laotian, Thai and South Korean firms, collapsed last week, flooding several villages and killing at least 20 people.

Tu said Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy dam was still not completed when the incident occurred,  the first crack was discovered one day before. However, though the contractor gave warnings to local authorities and people after the discovery, and sent a team of engineers to reinforce the crack, the collapse still occurred.

Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy dam was still not completed when the incident occurred,  the first crack was discovered one day before. However, though the contractor gave warnings to local authorities and people after the discovery, and sent a team of engineers to reinforce the crack, the collapse still occurred.

“This is a great lesson. The incident occurred in a mountainous area. If it had occurred in a populous area, the damages would have been even more serious,” he commented.

Vietnam has nearly 7,000 irrigation and hydropower water reservoirs with the capacity of between thousands and billions of cubic meter of water. 

In principle, when designing hydropower dams, Vietnam has to calculate possible accumulative impacts in case the dams collapse. However, the research is not sufficiently thorough and detailed.

“Scenarios give predictions about the future, but the story will be different from reality. The incident in Laos shows that Vietnam needs to build more scenarios about accidents,” Tu said.

Nguyen Huu Thien, an independent expert on Mekong Delta’s ecosystem, commented that the collapse of the Lao dam once again shows that the safety of the dams on Mekong basin is a major concern.

He said that Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy is not the first accident of this kind. Nam Ao dam in Xayxomboun province broke last year, causing floods to seven villages.

For Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, the biggest threat is the collapse of dams as a result of domino effect. 

So, it is just like a water bomb hanging over Mekong Delta. If a dam breaks, a big volume of water will flow to the lower course and the Mekong Delta will be inundated with water.

Of the dams, the biggest concern is Xayaburi, the construction of which started in 2011.

Xayaburi is located on an active fault line and scientists from Thailand's Chula Longkorn University have warned that in the next 30 years, there would be a 30 percent chance of a medium-level earthquake to occur, and a 10 percent probability of a big earthquake in the area.


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Mai Thanh

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