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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. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:The collapse of Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower project, Lao PDR
Country:Lao PDR
State or province:Attapeu province, Champassak province
Location of conflict:Sanamxay 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 commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Xe-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.

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Project area:238 [1]
Level of Investment for the conflictive project1,200,000
Affected Population:6,000 families
Start of the conflict:23/07/2018
Company names or state enterprises:Ratchaburi 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 actors:Minister of Energy and Mines [5]
International and Finance InstitutionsBank of Ayudhya from Thailand
Export- Import Bank of Thailand from Thailand
Krung Thai Bank from Thailand
Thanachart Bank from Thailand
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:International Rivers Network
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Involvement 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-economical 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
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain: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 & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[6] Kenneth Olson, “Water rights and fights: Lao dams on the Mekong River,” Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. March 2018.
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[2] AFP - Hundreds missing in Laos after hydropower dam collapse. 24th July 2018
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[3] NYT - Laos Dam Collapse Leaves Hundreds Missing and Homes Washed Away July 24, 2018
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[4] International Rivers letter to power company. 2013
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[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.
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BBC - Laos dam collapse: Many feared dead as floods hit villages
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International Rivers - Xe Pian–Xe Namnoy Affected People Want Consultation Before Construction

Thu, 01/24/2013

By: Tania Lee
[click to view]

Meta information
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3630
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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