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Earthquake Hits northern Laos. Can Surrounding Mekong Dams Survive the Shock?

27 Mekong dams lie within a 200km radius of Wednesday’s 6.1 earthquake in northern Laos.

Part of the Mekong Policy Project
Southeast Asia

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.

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