The catastrophic collapse of a dam during unusually heavy rain on July 24 in Laos’ southern Attapeu Province has greatly enhanced the importance of two separate reports by the California-based National Heritage Institution (NHI) on two massive dam projects planned by Laos and Cambodia that would fatally degrade the vital core of the world’s most productive riverine ecosystems and its agriculturally rich Delta.
One report, in fact, specifically addresses the threat posed by plans to construct nearly a dozen massive hydropower dams on the the Xe Kong, the very river system bore the brunt of the upstream dam collapse. Within a couple of days of the dam collapse one of its tributaries the Xe Kong swelled to just short of the 11.5 meters “alarm” level at a measuring station some 287 kilometers downstream in Cambodia. Some 3,000 people narrowly escaped the rushing mass of water, while some 27 are said to be dead and hundreds more are missing.
Both studies were led by Gregory Thomas, an American with extensive experience studying fisheries and sediment issues on tributary river dams in Vietnam and Laos, and more than a dozen international and regional co-authors and contributors.
The first report, The NHI’s Sambor Alternatives Assessment, was prepared under a 2014 Memorandum of Understanding with the Cambodia Ministry of Mines and Energy and submitted in December 2017.
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