Laos: Groups call on companies to be held accountable for collapse of Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy dam

On July 23, 2018, a dam in the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy hydropower project collapsed and released massive amount of water that resulted to disastrous flooding in districts of southern Laos.

Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Public Company published a statement on their relief efforts in the affected communities. SK E&C also has a similar statement.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the companies involved in the construction and finance of the project to respond to allegations of faulty construction. The companies invited to respond were: 1) Export-Import Bank of Korea; 2) Krung Thai Bank; 3) Bank of Ayudhaya; 4) Lao Holding State Enterprise; 5) Korea Western Power Company; 6) Mitsubishi UFJ Bank 7) Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Public Company; 8) SK E&C; and 9) Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy Power Company. None of these companies responded.

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13 July 2019

PNPC Dam Collapse Survivors Reluctantly Accept Lowball Compensation Offers

Author: Eugene Whong, Radio Free Asia

10 July 2010

...[S]truggling survivors are reluctantly accepting compensation for about 50 percent of their total property losses.

...Some of the victims are still holding out, saying that the compensation proposals they have been presented with are not enough....

...Sanamxay District Governor Bounhome Phommasane said that the responsibility for compensation lies with the developer.

..."The project developer is going to make direct deposits into their accounts. It won't go through the state," said the governor....

The governor also indicated that the 50 percent figure was only the beginning of the compensation package, and that the survivors would be entitled to more.

...Villagers say that the cleared land is infertile; it is gravelly and nothing can be grown on it.

But the Sanamxay District governor said...that the cleared land was for a 'commercial plantation' not for the victims to farm for themselves.

A private company is now in the process of discussing with the authorities and the victims on what should be planted on that 2,000 hectare cleared land, he added.


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1 June 2019

Experts Agree With IEP Report: PNPC Dam Collapsed Due to Faulty Construction

30 May 2019

Several outside experts and the Lao government say a South Korean construction firm is shirking liability for poorly building the hydropower dam that collapsed....

...SK Engineering & Construction dismissed the IEP’s findings and questioned the scientific basis of its approach.

“Of course the company would not agree with the report, because it doesn’t want to be responsible,” said Ian Baird, a geography professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison....

...He added that there is evidence that the developer was trying to cut corners during the dam’s construction.

An official with the Lao Energy and Mines Ministry, speaking to RFA’s Lao Service on the condition of anonymity, said, “The developer has to be responsible according to the concession agreement. [SK Engineering & Construction] should comply with all the terms and conditions of the agreement.”

...Richard Meehan, a former Stanford University civil engineering professor “...the foundation failed because of seepage...I agreed with that.”

...Meanwhile, a member of a South Korean civil society organization said there are still doubts about the accuracy of the report.

“First of all, we want transparency on the investigation by all stake holders,” the activist said.

“We wonder whether the investigation was deep, good and fair enough, and how the local people participated in the process. The report contained no information on this. We still have doubts about the process of the investigation and we want more information on [how it was conducted],” added the South Korean, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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18 May 2019

Laos Dam Collapse Blamed on Substandard Construction

Author: Max Avary & Richard Finney, Radio Free Asia

15 May 2019

Poor construction methods, with soil used in place of concrete, are now being blamed for a fatal hydropower dam collapse last year in Laos in what has been called the country’s worst flooding in decades.

...A report sent to the Lao government in March, but still not released to the public, reveals that “construction of the saddle dam was substandard,” a PNPC official told RFA’s Lao Service this week.

“It was built with soil,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “That was the cause of the collapse. It couldn’t handle that massive amount of water.”

...Singphet Bounsavattiphanh—vice chairman of the Lao government inspection agency—confirmed that the government had received the report and its recommendations in March.

“But they cannot publish it right now because they are in the process of negotiating with the South Korean government about what information should or should not be released to the public,” he said.

PNPC is a consortium formed by a local Lao company and South Korea’s SK Engineering & Construction, and Korean involvement in the project had earlier prompted Seoul to send relief teams to Laos to help mitigate the effects of the disaster.

...All findings of the report should be released as quickly as possible, though, Premrudee Daoruong of the Thailand-based NGO Laos Dam Investigation Monitor said, also speaking to RFA.

“This is so the public can verify the information and raise questions,” she said, adding, “This information shouldn’t be known only to the Lao and South Korean governments.”

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23 March 2019

Laos’ Deputy Prime Minister Blames PNPC Dam Collapse on Poor Planning

Author: Eugene Whong, Radio Free Asia

20 March 2019

Laos' deputy prime minister has identified poor soil analysis for a fatal hydropower dam collapse, often described as the country's worst flooding in decades.

...Deputy Prime Minister Bounthong Chitmany, who also heads the investigative committee tasked with finding the causes of the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy (PNPC) hydropower project disaster, blamed the collapse on a severe lack of oversight.

..."[We are however in agreement] that we did not properly study the environment of the soil or conduct proper soil analyses," he said.

"If we had carefully conducted soil analyses like we are doing now after the fact, we would have rejected the project altogether, or we wouldn't have allowed the construction of the dam," said Chitmany.

...Civil Engineering professor Richard Meehan said that he was able to determine that the project was dangerously flawed without conducting soil analysis.

...PNPC was a consortium between formed by a local Lao company and South Korea's SK Engineering & Construction. Korean involvement in the project has prompted Seoul to send its own relief teams to Laos to help mitigate the effects of the disaster.

In the wake of the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy disaster, Laos has stepped up scrutiny of an ambitious hydropower dam building program under which it aims to serve as the "battery of Asia" and sell hydropower to its more industrialized neighbors China, Thailand and others.

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3 February 2019

Laos Pays Compensation to Families of Dead and Missing in PNPC Dam Disaster

Author: Eugene Whong, Radio Free Asia

29 February 2019

Relatives of Lao villagers killed or left missing by the July 2018 dam disaster have received compensation from the government, government officials have confirmed.

The disaster, described as Laos' worst flooding in decades, occurred when a saddle dam at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy (PNPC) hydropower project collapsed....

...Compensation for property losses or damages have meanwhile not been approved yet because an official investigation into the collapse has not been concluded.

...[A] Special Task National Relief Committee had approved compensation of $10,000 per person to families of those missing or killed during the disaster.

...The committee also recommended PNPC, SK E&C, a South Korean company in the consortium, and the insurance company conduct a ceremony to hand over the compensation to the relatives and families of the victims as soon as possible.

..."We're not very happy about the $10,000 compensation," said Bang Manichanh who lost both her grandparents in the disaster. "We have no choice but to accept it. They never talked to us, never asked us how much we wanted."

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16 December 2018

Commentary: As Laos sees growing investment from South Korea, local communities are left behind

Author: Skylar Lindsay, ASEAN Today

7 December 2018

...When the Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy dam in Laos collapsed, two South Korean companies involved in the construction of the dam project suddenly faced tough questions....

...[T]he issues behind it are in fact characteristic of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Laos.

As South Korea seeks to deepen economic ties with Laos, weak regulations and the social and environmental risks involved threaten both local communities in Laos and Korean investors.

...Projects by SK E&C and Korea Western Power in Laos are part of a much larger plan coming out of Seoul – Korea’s new Southern Policy....

...By investing in the energy sector without helping to improve regulations and address social and environmental impacts, South Korean businesses are exposed to a huge amount of risk.

...It is in international investors best interests to work with the Lao government and local Lao communities to prevent these disasters. No one is better positioned to do so at the moment than South Korean firms.

South Korea also has domestic mechanisms to support equitable economic change in Laos. Much of Korea’s investment in Laos is funnelled through its Official Development Assistance program....

...If South Korea can reform ODA regulations to improve sustainability and work with local Lao communities to set the economic agenda, they might set a model for other countries’ FDI in Laos.

...Rather than continuing to increase their investments...South Korean government and corporations might use their influence to build stronger rules around FDI that will reduce risks for local communities and investors....

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2 December 2018

Government Fails in Promise to Deliver Assistance to Victims of Laos Dam Burst

Author: Radio Free Asia

27 November 2018

Survivors of July’s disaster at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy (PNPC) hydropower project in Champassak, Laos are calling upon the local and national governments for relief, after failing to receive promised allowances for living expenses for the past two month....

...[T]he Lao government agreed to pay $12 per month to each person who was affected by the collapse of PNPC’s dam....

...“[T]he victims have received food allowances but they haven’t received any of the $12 living allowance.”

...[R]ecipients of the food assistance complained that the rice they received was low-quality or rotten.

...A victim told Leuangpanya and later RFA, “We don’t need any more bottled water. Instead the authorities should provide each family with water filters so we can filter the water from the wells. Local authorities have run out of money....”

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11 November 2018

Laos: Details emerge that govt and some companies knew of dam's defects days before its collapse

Author: Asia Times

"Details emerge of 'confusion' in Laos prior to dam collapse," 08 November 2018

More details have emerged about the collapse of a dam in southern Laos in July, which suggest that local officials and the companies involved were not well prepared for a possible disaster such as the dam bursting.

Evidence is emerging that suggests there were signs of trouble at the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower (PNPC) project in Champasak and Attapeu provinces in the days before the collapse on July 23.

The Korea JoongAng Daily reported shortly...that Korea Western Power...was aware of problems several days earlier.

Korea Western president Kim Byung-sook told the Korean Trade, Industry, Energy, SMEs and Startups Committee that his company was aware on July 20 that the top of the auxiliary dam had sunk 11 centimeters. However, the dam builders allegedly felt this subsidence was not serious enough to require repairs.

RFA’s Lao service says it obtained a record of communications between relevant officials in Attapeu and PNPC on the day of the disaster...

“The report appears to show that the government was ill-equipped to handle the emergency, with notices going up and down the chain of command, redundant communications between PNPC and local and provincial government agencies, and general confusion about when to start evacuations,” RFA said.



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Company non-response
15 September 2018

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group did not respond

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group to respond to a report mentioning the bank as a co-financier of the companies involved in the construction of the collapsed dam that forms part of the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower project in Champassak, Laos.  The company did not respond.

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Author: メコンウォッチ

今回の悲惨な事故に多くの人びとを巻き込んだのは、一義的には関連企業の責任です。しかし、 企業のダム建設を可能にした融資機関、さらには大規模ダム建設に依存するラオス政府の開発政策 とそれを後押ししてきた援助国・機関の役割についても検証する必要があります。 

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