VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/Asia News Network): Switzerland is providing more than US$5.2 million to support dam safety technical and institutional assistance in Laos.
A Memorandum of Understanding on measures to ensure dam safety in Laos was signed in Vientiane yesterday by the Director General of the Energy Industry and Safety Management Department at the Ministry of Energy and Mines, Bouathep Malaykham, and the Director of Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation Laos, Jesper Lauridsen.
Lauridsen said the initiative is a crucial step towards ensuring the safety of dams in Laos.
Building on preparatory work on the nationwide emergency dam safety inspection and study on the international framework for dam safety, this project will strengthen the government’s law enforcement and technical capacity to meet international standards.
It will also provide better protection for an estimated 1.5 million people living downstream of dams and contribute to safe energy generation and infrastructure sustainability.
The project will focus on three key areas. First, enhancing the technical capacities of the Ministry of Energy and Mines to effectively serve as a dam safety supervisory authority, mitigating disaster risks stemming from deficiencies in design, construction, maintenence, surveillance and implementation of environmental and social safeguards.
Secondly, strengthening the legal framework to align with international standards and providing support to the newly established Industry Energy and Safety Management Department.
Thirdly, insititutionalising dam safety training to create a skilled and qualified pool of dam safety specialists among dam owners and operators, government institutions and universities.
The collapse of a dam at the Xe-Pian-Xe-Namnoy hydropower plant in 2018 triggered a crucial discussion on the significance of dam safety in Laos.
The 2019-2020 nationwide emergency dam safety inspection with support from various development partners, including Switzerland, along with a review of institutional and legal framework conducted by a Swiss advisor, confirmed the need to strengthen the safety of hydropower infrastructure, institutional capacity, legal framework and human resource related to dam safety.
Recognising the critical role of hydropower in the country’s economic development and Switzerland’s unparalleled expertise and experiences in this field, the government of Laos sought support from the government of Switzerland to enhance its dam safety sectors.
The dam safety technical and institutional assistance project is a response to the government’s request to bolster its capacity in safeguarding its people, property and the environment in relation to the operation of dams and reservoirs.
The project will support Laos’ aspirations towards sustainable and safe hydropower production, as outlined in the 9th national socio-economic development plan for 2021-2025 and the Ministry of Energy and Mines’ 5-year plan for 2021-2025.