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23 Mar 2019

Eugene Whong, Radio Free Asia

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

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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.