Factsheet | The Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Dam Disaster: Situation Update Two Years On

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Two years after the tragic collapse of the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy hydropower project in Laos, construction is complete and the project is operational, exporting electricity to Thailand. Meanwhile, thousands of people who lost family members, homes, land and livelihoods in the dam collapse remain in difficult conditions and without answers or accountability from those responsible for the disaster. Displaced families continue to reside in temporary housing and face food and water shortages. Many are yet to receive full compensation for the losses and harm suffered. This new factsheet by International Rivers, Mekong Watch and Inclusive Development International explores the situation and the ongoing efforts to secure justice.  

On 23 July 2018, an auxiliary dam of the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Hydropower Project in Laos collapsed, unleashing a wall of water that left 49 people dead and 22 missing. The collapse displaced thousands of people, flooding homes and villages. Over 7,000 people in 19 villages in Attapeu province experienced losses and long-term damage to houses, property, and farmlands. The floodwaters extended far downstream and across the border into Cambodia, affecting an estimated 15,000 people, damaging farms and destroying livestock and property. The devastating incident received global attention and an outpouring of donations and humanitarian aid.

In the aftermath of the dam collapse, important questions were raised regarding the causes of the disaster and the liability of the project’s developers and investors. The incident brought to the fore the risks and inequities in the government policy to promote hydropower development across the country despite extensive evidence of harm to people and the environment.

This factsheet assess the situaiton two years on. It highlights ongoing concerns regarding the restoration of livelihoods and the future safety of the project, alongside calls for information transparency on the causes of the collapse and effective remedial action.