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18 May 2019

Max Avary & Richard Finney, Radio Free Asia

Laos Dam Collapse Blamed on Substandard Construction

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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.”