Laos: Groups demand accountability from companies as well as insurers for collapse of Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy dam

On 23 July 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.

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.

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.

A report by Inclusive Development International and International Rivers entitled Reckless Endangerment: Demanding Accountability for the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Dam Collapse mentions several insurers of the project – not just in the form of construction insurance coverage but also for other liabilities such as those resulting from the loss and damages incurred by the communities.

The Resource Centre invited American International Group (AIG), Aon, Asia Capital Reinsurance (ACR), Korean Reinsurance, and Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance to respond to the allegation in the report. The companies did not respond.

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Article
31 May 2020

Survivors of 2018 Dam Collapse in Laos Begin Receiving Compensation

Author: Max Avary & Eugene Whong, Radio Free Asia

27 May 2020

...[S]urvivors whose villages were washed away are finally being offered land in compensation....

[...]

Sanamxay authorities have begun allocating land to survivors of the collapse. The total compensation to about 1,270 families amounts to 2,140 hectares (8.26 square miles) of cleared land, which they can use to grow rice, just as the rainy season approaches.

"[Authorities] have cleared and improved the land and will give it to [the survivors]", an official of the district [said]....

"If a family has two working members, that family will get one hectare (2.47 acres) of land, whereas a family of three or four will get two hectares and so on. However a family consisting of only one person will get nothing. That person must join another family," the official said.

The official added that in addition to new land, the authorities will improve the soil condition of the villagers' former farms that were mud-covered or damaged by the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoi dam collapse, then allow the victims to go back to their old villages and plant rice on their old land.

[...]

Another survivor had doubts about the plan.

"Growing rice may not be fruitful. I'm afraid [the land they cleared] will be flooded because this area is flooded every year," the second survivor told RFA.

[...]

This official said that government has plans to improve the survivors' living conditions to a normal or stable level by around 2023. The plans include building permanent homes, roads and other infrastructure, allocating land and paying the promised compensation to all remaining survivors.

[...]

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Article
25 April 2020

Survivors of PNPC Dam Collapse in Laos Flee Deteriorating Relocation Centers

Author: Max Avary & Eugene Whong, Radio Free Asia

23 April 2020

...[T]housands of survivors have fled from temporary relocation centers as conditions in the centers go from bad to worse, the displaced flood victims told RFA.

[...]

The survivors were promised compensation and relocated to the temporary shelters in designated areas in what many assumed was to be only a few months. But as their time in the centers drags on with no end in sight, some are choosing to leave.

Those who stay must bear oppressive heat, an absence of clean water, and unsanitary conditions, but those who leave must foot the bill themselves for the costs of building new homes.

[...]

RFA contacted the local government to inquire about the situation in the relocation centers.

"I admit the survivors are now having problems with water shortages, because it is the dry season right now," Bounhome Phommasane, the Sanamxay district chief, told RFA.

[...]

The district chief also said that the survivors would receive the second half of the compensation they are owed.

"We just signed an agreement with the company last Thursday. The agreement includes all the figures and numbers related to compensation," he said, adding, "Hopefully all the compensation will be paid after this COVID-19 pandemic is over."

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Article
21 March 2020

Lao Dam Collapse Families Denied Aid, Endure Poor Conditions at Shelters For Displaced

Author: Ounkeo Souksavanh & Joshua Lipes, Radio Free Asia

18 March 2020

Hundreds of families displaced by the worst dam collapse in Laos in decades are no longer receiving aid, and are living in substandard conditions in temporary shelters, nearly two years after the accident, according to representatives of the community.

[...]

...[M]ore than 880 families in Attapeu's Sanamxay district comprised of 2,570 people, who were among those worst affected by the collapse, are no longer receiving a living allowance or foodstuffs from PNPC, as promised by the government, and are housed in shelters that lack running water and toilets.

[...]

Though each villager had been provided 44 pounds of rice per month and 5,000 kip (U.S. $0.56) daily living allowance, the resident said that the living allowance had been shut off "since January."

[...]

Residents are unable to cultivate rice on their own land because officials have yet to clear it for them. [...]

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"The water supply installed by the dam company and authorities doesn't supply enough water to meet the needs of people in the shelters, so they sometimes fight with one another over it," she said.
[...]

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Article
7 March 2020

Laos Establishes Committee to Inspect Safety of Nation’s Dams

Author: Max Avary & Joshua Lipes, Radio Free Asia

3 March 2020

The government of Laos has established a committee of local and foreign experts to inspect the safety of the nation's dams...as it forges ahead with plans to supply regional power despite several catastrophic accidents in recent years.

[...]

French large-dam expert Anton Schleis leads the committee which...had inspected 13 small dams and found the construction of one to be substandard, the official said.

[...]

There are currently 39 operational dams in Laos, as well as 24 dams under construction and 291 in the planning stage or undergoing feasibility studies. The committee plans to inspect all 39 of the country's operational dams by year-end....

[...]

On July 23, 2018 water poured over a saddle dam at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy (PNPC) hydropower project following heavy rains, inundating 12 villages and killing at least 40 people in southern Laos' Champassak and Attapeu provinces.

Laos' Ministry of Energy and Mines blamed the collapse of the auxiliary dam, which displaced about 7,000 people, on substandard construction, prompting calls by Lao officials for the project's main developer—South Korea's SK Engineering and Construction—to be held accountable.

[...]

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Company non-response
31 August 2019

AIG did not respond

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited AIG to respond to the latest report by Inclusive Development International and International Rivers entitled Reckless Endangerment: Demanding Accountability for the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Dam Collapse” (July 2019). Among other things, the report mentions several insurers of the project – not just in the form of construction insurance coverage but also for other liabilities such as those resulting from the loss and damages incurred by the communities.

AIG did not respond.

Company non-response
31 August 2019

Aon did not respond

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Aon to respond to the latest report by Inclusive Development International and International Rivers entitled Reckless Endangerment: Demanding Accountability for the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Dam Collapse” (July 2019). Among other things, the report mentions several insurers of the project – not just in the form of construction insurance coverage but also for other liabilities such as those resulting from the loss and damages incurred by the communities.

Aon did not respond.

Company non-response
31 August 2019

Asia Capital Reinsurance (ACR) did not respond

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited ACR to respond to the latest report by Inclusive Development International and International Rivers entitled Reckless Endangerment: Demanding Accountability for the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Dam Collapse” (July 2019). Among other things, the report mentions several insurers of the project – not just in the form of construction insurance coverage but also for other liabilities such as those resulting from the loss and damages incurred by the communities.

ACR did not respond.

Company non-response
31 August 2019

Korean Reinsurance did not respond

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Korean Reinsurance to respond to the latest report by Inclusive Development International and International Rivers entitled Reckless Endangerment: Demanding Accountability for the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Dam Collapse” (July 2019). Among other things, the report mentions several insurers of the project – not just in the form of construction insurance coverage but also for other liabilities such as those resulting from the loss and damages incurred by the communities.

Korean Reinsurance did not respond.

Company non-response
31 August 2019

Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance did not respond

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance to respond to the latest report by Inclusive Development International and International Rivers entitled Reckless Endangerment: Demanding Accountability for the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Dam Collapse” (July 2019). Among other things, the report mentions several insurers of the project – not just in the form of construction insurance coverage but also for other liabilities such as those resulting from the loss and damages incurred by the communities.

Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance did not respond.

Article
30 July 2019

Laos: A year after dam collapse, groups call on developers & financiers to ensure remedies for thousands still uncompensated & without homes

Author: Inclusive Development International & International Rivers

"Reckless Endangerment: Assessing responsibility for the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy dam collaps," July 2019

Laos%20dam%20collapse

...To date, no one has been held accountable for the catastrophe. Yet a growing body of evidence suggests that the dam’s lead developer and builder, the Korean firm SK Engineering & Construction, may have caused the collapse by cutting corners in order to maximize profits. An independent investigation commissioned by the Lao government has ruled out force majeure, or an unforeseeable “act of god” such as a natural disaster, as the cause of the collapse. Korean media have reported that SK Engineering & Construction significantly altered the design of the project, including by lowering the walls of the collapsed auxiliary dam, in order to save money. A Stanford University researcher found that the failed dam was built on a sinkhole. SK Engineering & Construction has denied responsibility...

Entities that... profit from Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy must take...action to ensure that adequate remediation is provided...

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