On July 23, 2018, an auxiliary dam of the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Hydropower Project in Laos collapsed, unleashing a rushing wall of water that killed dozens of people and flooded thousands of homes and farms. The floodwaters reached into northern Cambodia, destroying crops and property some 80 kilometers away.
On the anniversary of the dam collapse a new report, Reckless Endangerment: Assessing Responsibility for the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Dam Collapse, examines the situation for survivors.One year later, close to 5,000 Lao villagers made homeless by the disaster remain in temporary camps, living in difficult conditions. Surviving the tragedy and loss of homes, friends and family members, they are undergoing renewed trauma and devastation through the denial of fundamental rights to adequate food, housing, livelihoods and dignity. Most of those displaced are unable to return to their homes, and their futures remain highly uncertain. Thousands more people have not received compensation for damage to crops, property and houses.
To date, no one has been held accountable for the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy catastrophe. A growing body of evidence suggests that the dam’s lead developers and builders may have caused the dam collapse through flaws in project design and efforts to cut costs in its construction. Questions of negligence aside, the project developers did not develop and finance the 1.02 billion USD project alone. A range of actors were involved in developing, financing and insuring the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy project. All had a role in enabling the project and each of them will profit from it – in some cases for years to come. Under international law and business and human rights frameworks, they bear responsibility for the immense harm and continued suffering caused by this man-made disaster.