Nam Ao Dam in Laos burst last week

Nam Ao Dam, being built to impound water for a small hydropower facility on the Nam Ao River in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, burst last week, according to the Lao News Agency.

Reports indicate flooding of farmland in the Thathom District of Xaysomboun Province after the dam burst Sept. 11. In addition, some sections of a road were under mud but undamaged. No news agencies have reported exactly how much water was released during this incident.

The dam itself is located in the Phaxay District of Xieng Khuang Province and has been under construction since 2015 by the Bothong Inter Company. At the time it burst, construction of the dam was 85% complete, Lao News Agency says.

Generating capacity of the hydro powerhouse when completed has been reported to be both 12 MW and 15 MW.

Officials with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment are investing the cause of the incident and estimating damages. No injuries or deaths have been reported. Seven downstream villages were affected.

The Vientiane Times reported the water released did not come from the main reservoir behind the dam but from a “sub-reservoir of the dam which is under construction.” This sub-reservoir suffered damage due to heavy rain, according to Thathom district Governor Somboun Sonelitthideth.

There is no indication of how long completion of the facility could be delayed as a result of this incident.

Laos is seeing quite a bit of activity around hydropower development. Earlier this month, Laos signed an agreement with the International Finance Corporation to launch the “first cumulative impact assessment” in the Sekong River Basin.

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