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Law on dam safety essential: energy minister

It is necessary to enact a specific law to regulate the safety of dams, as part of the government’s efforts to achieve sustainable energy development.
Addressing the National Assembly on Thursday, Minister of Energy and Mines Dr Daovong Phonekeo said there are regulations and guidelines in place governing the construction and operation of hydropower plants, but there is no law that specifically relates to safety measures.
The Ministry of Energy and Mines is working to strengthen the management, monitoring and implementation of policy in regard to sustainable hydropower development, in the wake of the disastrous collapse of a dam in Attapeu province in 2018.


Dr Daovong highlighted the success of the government’s dam security policy, despite the absence of a law requiring the inspection of dams.
“We are facing challenges in resolving the issue of damaged and unsafe dams in some provinces,” he said.
The lack of a law in relation to dam safety management is hindering the standardised inspection of dams to prevent the possibility of any more accidents.
“The construction of dams in Laos follows safety guidelines relating to inspection, instrumentation, monitoring, quality control procedures, and geotechnical investigations, which include recommended construction methods. But there is no law that enables us to monitor the quality of contractors’ safety measures,” Dr Daovong said.
Inadequate and inefficient inspection procedures carry risks and this issue should be rectified, he added.
All areas of development, including the construction of dams, need to be better regulated through rigorous law enforcement, while greater capacity is especially needed with respect to dam safety and inspections.
The enactment of a law in this regard would provide guidelines that could lead to the formulation of a law governing the construction of hydropower plants, Dr Daovong said.
Another National Assembly member said it was essential to revise inspection systems and standards, which are currently inadequate.
“The inspection model that we currently use for dams in Laos needs to be revised. We have to determine whether the dams that are built comply with the set standards and ensure that they are closely monitored to ensure safety.”
Hydropower plants are an important source of cost-effective energy. Laos is among the richest countries in South-East Asia in terms of hydropower resources and currently exports an estimated two-thirds of its hydropower. Revenues from power exports make a significant contribution to economic growth and poverty alleviation in the country.


By Phetphoxay Sengpaseuth
 (Latest Update June 10, 2022)

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