By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
PROLONGED and widespread floods have been forecast for the lower part of the Mekong River Basin, especially Cambodia, as floodwater released by the collapse of a part of the under-construction Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy dam cannot be properly drained out due to the already high water level in the Mekong River.
A Lao authority said the companies involved needed to take responsibility for the dam disaster that had claimed 27 lives as of yesterday and displaced more than 7,000 people from their homes.
A shelter damaged by flood waters lies in the middle road in a village in Sanamxai, Attapeu province on July 26, 2018.// AFP PHOTO
The Mekong River Commission (MRC) issued a flood warning on Wednesday for Cambodia’s Stung Treng and Kratie provinces. The areas are sandwiched between floodwater spilling over from the damaged dam on one side and water from the Mekong upstream on the other side.
The floodwater level in Attapeu’s Sanamxay district has reportedly come down.
However, the large volumes of water from the damaged reservoir are now flowing down the Sekong River towards Cambodia.
The Cambodian National Committee for Disaster Management yesterday reported that four communes along the Sekong River in Stung Treng’s Siem Pang district had already been affected by the floodwaters from the damaged dam. As of Wednesday, Stung Treng provincial authorities and the Cambodian army had already moved more than 5,000 people from 1,289 families to higher ground.
Leading water management expert Chawalit Chantararat yesterday warned that the flood situation in Cambodia would be long and serious, as water from the damaged dam would merge with the swelling Mekong River from the impact of tropical storm Son Tinh. This has not only intensified the severity of the flood situation but also made it more difficult for water to drain out into the sea.
“More than 870 million cubic metres of water are estimated to have spilled out of the damaged dam. This amount of water is draining into the Xe Pian River and then flowing into the Sekong River, before emptying into the Mekong River at Stung Treng province and later ending up in the sea at the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam,” Chawalit explained.
A man removes a dead cow from the flood waters in a village in Sanamxai, Attapeu province on July 26, 2018. // AFP PHOTO
“The local people in the downstream area of the Sekong and Mekong rivers in Cambodia will face a difficult situation. Even before the dam collapse on the upstream of the Sekong River Basin, this area was already flooded due to the high water
level in the Mekong River.”
Chawalit was a director of Team Group, the company that made the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy hydropower dam project. He said a team of engineering experts from South Korea and Thailand was now inspecting the site of the damaged dam to investigate the cause of the disaster.
He insisted that the EIA report of this project had an emergency response plan and the breach had already been sealed.
He also pointed out that the severe flood in the Mekong River Basin was from the impact of tropical storm Son Tinh, which brought very heavy rains throughout the region. The unusually high amount of precipitation from this storm has rapidly increased the water flow in the Mekong River and caused flooding in six provinces of Laos and several provinces of Cambodia.
A couple carry their children from their home in the flooded area in Sanamxai, Attapeu province, on July 26, 2018. // AFP PHOTO
Meanwhile, a senior official from the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Power Company said the firm would take full responsibility under the law and as per its concession agreement for the collapse of the saddle dam.
Laos Minister of Energy and Mines Khammany Inthirath said the company would not be in a position to deny its responsibility for the flood, which has caused massive destruction to the livelihoods and property of people.