A broken dam and broken promises: Laos doubles down on hydropower despite risks

Two years ago this week, a dam in southern Laos collapsed, releasing a flood that displaced over 7,000 people and killed at least 71.

When a section of the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy hydropower project broke on July 23, 2018, it sent 500 million cubic meters of water downstream. The flooding destroyed people’s homes and farms, inundating the land with mud and forcing them into temporary shelters. Some estimates put the total number displaced as high as 14,000.

Since the collapse, the people affected have struggled to get answers as to what happened and have seen little accountability for the disaster. Though the collapse could be called an accident, the dam builders, financiers and governments involved are responsible for how their business endeavors affect people’s homes and land.

Today, over 3,000 people are still living in camps, where many of them struggle to access food and water, let alone any opportunities to support themselves.

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