After Wednesday’s 6.1 earthquake in northern Laos, social media is abuzz with questions on the ability of the newly opened Xayaburi Dam to absorb such a shock without damage.
We did a quick study of the number of dams within a 100km radius of the epicenter (8), those between 100-150km radius (5), and those between 150-200km radius (14).
While I have no evidence, either way, to comment on the ability of the Xayaburi Dam to survive a major earthquake, I do assume that it is of a very sound design given the years of scrutiny and technical review over the mega-project. However, tributary dams, especially those built fast and quick in Laos are of a different quality altogether and perhaps it is these that we should be most concerned about. Tributary dams in Laos are failing/bursting at rate of about one per year.