How many saddle dams are there in the XePian-XeNamnoy Hydropower Project?

The first time we read the flood warning letter issued by the XePian-XeNamnoy Power Company (PNPC) on 23 July 2018, it indicated a heavy rainfall and the water level at Saddle Dam D was about to overflow the dam crest. If the dam collapsed, over five billion tons of water could gush out and inundate the XePianriver. Right after, We started to wonder where this broken is located on the XeNamnoy reservoir.

Screenshot 2018-08-22 04.54.23

Later, We found maps showing the boundary of the XeNamnoy watershed and the XeNamnoy reservoir. The environmental impact assessment, under the topic “Current Environmental Condition” on page 4-91[1], showed a clearer picture of where the “saddles” were. There were 5 saddles (See attached figures). Naturally, this area is quite high. But because of greed, the project chose to divert water from the HouayMakchan dam and the XePian dam and store it in the XeNamnoy reservoir (At this point, imagine a glutton who keeps eating until his stomach explodes). As a result, the project needed to block the water from flowing out by building saddle dams.[2] The attached figure also points out the locations of the 5 saddle dams.

The “Resettlement and Ethnic People Development Plan” detailed all the components of the project, including the costs of construction.[3] However, the plan only indicated 3 earth fill saddle dams at the cost of 8.588 million (The report writes 8,588 million US $ as it uses comma as the decimal separator, see page 3-7). There was no mention about the cost of construction for the other two saddle dams.

We don’t know if there are any other documents related to the cost of building the other 2 saddle dams that PNPC has not published on its website.

As of now, We have not seen such document. We can only wonder whether there was any possibility that the budget for the 3 dams was used to build 5 dams instead. This led to the question on the quality and standard of project. This also makes the other 4 remaining saddle dams look unsettling.

The government of Laos seems to be preparing for an investigation on the dam collapse. We could only hope that the investigation would look into this issue. We don’t think we could expect PNPC to make this information publicly available.

Can we provide compensation, remedy and recovery for the people in Laos and Cambodia by using the whole income from the electricity trade?

EGAT estimated that the XePian-XeNamnoy Hydropower Project could generate approximately 104,926 million baht throughout the whole concession period. The estimation is based on the guaranteed purchase agreement at 1,575 million units per year (the average price per unit is 2.48405 baht). This number has not included an additional electricity that the project would sell to Laos at 285 million units annually. The project investment has hitherto been 2.2 billion baht. The difference is approximate 82.926 billion baht.

In a normal situation, the difference will be considered loan interest for the banks, maintenance fees, taxes and profits for the four companies that jointly form XePian-XeNamnoy Power Company.

Based on what’s going on today, that very first unit of electricity—that will be generated for the first time in October, during the trial period—will be generated from the lives of the Laotian residents who are affected by the failure of the dam. Those who have passed away.Those who are displaced.Those who have lost their possessions.Those who have become orphans. Those homes, farmlands, animals that are damaged or lost. And many life elements that once nourish the affected community.

All the money that’s accumulated from this difference ought to be used to compensate, remedy and help the affected people—in Laos and downstream Cambodia—to recover.

Screenshot 2018-08-22 04.54.38

Each of the four companies involved in this project has already received its benefits from the hydropower dam project. None of them shall receive any more profits throughout the concession period.

This is what we mean by being accountable to the damages and losses that affect the people. One of the four companies has already given five million baht. That’s considered less than a penny to the losses the people have to bear.




  1. Details mentioned related to the price of the electricity is included in this article.
  2. Currency exchange calculated in this article is 1 USD = 34 baht—the constant currency exchange rate used in Xaiyaburi Hydropower Dam Project.

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