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
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.

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...[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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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....

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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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Article
27 July 2019

New Report Pleads for Accountability on First Anniversary of Laos Dam Collapse

Author: Radio Free Asia

23 July 2019

...[A] new report from two NGOs found that nobody has been held accountable for the catastrophe that caused what has been described as Laos’ worst flooding in decades.

...In Reckless Endangerment: Assessing Responsibility for the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Dam Collapse, International Rivers and Inclusive Development International detail the disaster, explaining why it occurred, who is to blame, and how survivors are coping with displacement one year later.

...One section of the report explains that living conditions in the camps are so terrible that some have returned prematurely to their old villages. It paints another picture for those who still remain in the camps.

“For many, the extended existence in a state of uncertainty without adequate food, water and other basic necessities has greatly exacerbated feelings of frustration and despair,” the report said.

...[T]he report also touches on finding out who should be taking responsibility for the disaster.

...The report names each entity associated with the project. In particular, it found that that the project’s lead developer and builder may have been at fault.

“The Korean firm SK Engineering & Construction (SK E&C) may have caused the collapse by cutting corners in order to maximize profits,” the report said, also noting that the company has denied responsibility.

...“The company has yet to offer an alternative explanation for the collapse,” the report added.

...The report also urged banks to divulge their roles in the project and use their leverage with the various responsible companies to more effectively address the continuing concerns of the disaster survivors.

Finally, the report recommends that the PNPC project be suspended until all those displaced have access to land and adequate homes of comparable value to what they lost, with an effective grievance mechanism in place.

 

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Article
27 July 2019

Survivors of Dam Collapse in Laos to Receive Half Compensation on Anniversary of Disaster

Author: Eugene Whong, Radio Free Asia

22 July 2019

...On the one year anniversary of the disaster, authorities in Attapeu province plan to facilitate several events for the survivors of the disaster.

"The most important one is the ceremony where we pay 50 percent compensation to the survivors," said Bounhome Phommasane, governor of Attapeu's Sanamxay district.

...But many of the survivors, most of whom have lost everything, will still be living in squalid conditions while the government struggles to keep its promises of adequate temporary shelter and compensation that the victims feel they deserve.

...The government has been providing survivors with rice rations, but survivors say the rice is unfit for consumption.

...Another issue that survivors are struggling with is the quality of land that has been cleared for them by the government. As most of the survivors were farmers before the disaster, the cleared lands were supposed to provide them with enough to get to work and get back on their feet.

...Apart from living conditions and income, the government is also working with the dam developer to pay damages to the survivors, but the compensation process has been wrought with many setbacks.

 

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