[102] Xepian – after the flood

As I wrote before, Laos wants to become the battery of South East Asia, yet what must become the boost for the Laos’ economy requires a lot of sacrifices.

Not even a year ago, July 2018, hundreds of people disappeared, however only about 19 officially lost their lives, and around 11,000 people got affected according to the UN. However, all these numbers vary depending on the source.

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[The picture shows a smaller dam on the other side of the border, in Cambodia, yet the Xepian-Xe dam was way bigger and so was the impact of its collapse.]

Entire villages both at the Laos side as at the Cambodia side were completely wiped of the map. Unaware and especially unprepared, the water came and inundated the entire region. Although it was the rain season and the monsoons might have contributed to the catastrophe, nature solely is not the one to blame.

The real cause should be found in the origins of the water, the reason why the monsoons could have had such a devastating impact. It was the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam in the South-eastern province of Attapeu Laos. The dam was constructed by a South Korean company to provide hydro-electricity.

Heavy rainfalls increased the built-up water behind the dam and eventually caused the dam to break. Yet, there are various theories about how the dam could break, would it be a weak construction in the first place, or would climate change have caused exceptional heavy monsoons to which the dam was not prepared? But shouldn’t the dam be prepared anyways for extreme circumstances? Especially in a climate prone to heavy monsoon, and with the knowledge of climate change?

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Yet, the dam broke and flooded several villages.

The case of the Xepian-e Nam Noy dam is especially important to consider when we talk about the Laos’ policy of becoming the battery of Southeastern Asia. Because what must benefit the country could actually harm it more than bless it.

Which is what I’ll explain in the next post.

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