The collapse of Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower project, Lao PDR

The development of hydropower in Lao PDR has been very contentious. In this area a dam started to be built in February 2013 and was expected to be completed in 2019. One of the subsidiary dams failed on 23 July 2018 causing a major disaster.


The development of hydropower in LAO PDR has been very contentious. [6]. Then, the  US$1.2 billion Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy project located on the Xe Kong River in Laos' Bolaven plateau, collapsed. The dam construction began in February 2013 and was expected to be completed in 2019. It is part of the dam construction boom in the country with the aim of generating electricity to be exported to Thailand and become the "the battery of Southeast Asia" [2]. The Mekong and its tributaries would the source of hydropower, which (in money terms) was 23 % of exports in 2017, from 47 hydroprojects that should reach 100 by the year 2020. 

See more...
Basic Data
NameThe collapse of Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower project, Lao PDR
CountryLao PDR
ProvinceAttapeu province, Champassak province
SiteSanamxay district
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsXe-Pian Xe-Namnoy Power Company's (PNPC) 410MW Xe Pian Xe Namnoy hydroelectric power project is estimated to have an annual energy generation of approximately 1,860GWh.

The project includes the construction of three dams: Houay Makchan Dam, Xe Pian Dam, and Xe-Namnoy Dam along the Mekong River.

The "Saddle Dam D" was 8m wide, 770m long and 16m high - and was designed to help divert water around a local reservoir

It will consist of a large storage reservoir on the Xe Namnoy River, underground tunnels, shaft waterways, and an open-air powerhouse featuring four generator units (three Francis turbines and one Pelton turbine).

The Xe Namnoy reservoir will be 73m-high and 1,600m-long, and will have a capacity to store approximately 1,043 million cubic meters (MCM) of water. Approximately 1,000MCM of water will be collected from Houay Makchan and Xe Pian catchments and stored at the Xe Namnoy reservoir.
Project Area (in hectares)238 [1]
Level of Investment (in USD)1,200,000
Potential Affected Population6,000 families
Start Date23/07/2018
Company Names or State EnterprisesRatchaburi Electricity Generating Holding (RATCH) from Thailand
ATT Consultants Company Limited (ATT) from Thailand - ATT Consultants were engaged for designing the transmission system model, which will enable the transfer of power to Thailand.
SK E&C from Republic of Korea - SK E&C was awarded the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the construction of the project
Korea Western Power (KOWEPCO) from Republic of Korea - KOWEPCO was awarded the operations and maintenance contract (O&M) for a period of 27 years
AF Consult from Sweden - AF Consult was engaged to conduct pre-feasibility and feasibility studies, engineering for basic design and tender documents, environmental and social management aspects, and to provide support services for finalising the concession and power purchase agreements.
Tractebel Engineering from Belgium - Tractebel Engineering was engaged as owner's engineer for the hydropower plant construction.
Lao Holding State Enterprise (LHSE) from Lao PDR
Seli Overseas from Italy - completion of the project's headrace tunnel
Relevant government actorsMinister of Energy and Mines [5]
International and Financial InstitutionsBank of Ayudhya from Thailand
Export- Import Bank of Thailand from Thailand
Krung Thai Bank from Thailand
Thanachart Bank from Thailand
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersInternational Rivers Network
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingFarmers
International ejos
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationInvolvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Malnutrition, Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseMigration/displacement
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Some weeks after the breakdown, it is not yet clear how many people lost their lives immediately, how many "disappeared", how many survived but lost their homes and livelihood. The costs of the failed project and the potential benefits (in terms of electricty exports) are grossly asymetrical.
Sources and Materials

[6] Kenneth Olson, “Water rights and fights: Lao dams on the Mekong River,” Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. March 2018.
[click to view]


[click to view]

BBC - Laos dam collapse: Many feared dead as floods hit villages
[click to view]

International Rivers - Xe Pian–Xe Namnoy Affected People Want Consultation Before Construction

Thu, 01/24/2013

By: Tania Lee
[click to view]

[3] NYT - Laos Dam Collapse Leaves Hundreds Missing and Homes Washed Away July 24, 2018
[click to view]

[2] AFP - Hundreds missing in Laos after hydropower dam collapse. 24th July 2018
[click to view]

[4] International Rivers letter to power company. 2013
[click to view]

[5]Lao Dam Collapse Caused by Heavy Rains, Faulty Construction: Minister. 2018-07-26 On the night of July 23, water poured over a saddle dam at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy hydropower project in Champassak, sweeping away homes and causing severe flooding in up to 12 villages downstream in Champassak and neighboring Attapeu province.
[click to view]

Other Documents

[click to view]

[click to view]

Meta Information
Last update11/08/2018