PSPD l People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy
[Joint Statement] The Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy dam project which takes the whole life of the people of Laos: For whom was the development designed?
- Int. Solidarity
- 2018.08.09 (14:39:12)
The Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy dam project which takes the whole life of the people of Laos: For whom was the development designed?
9th August 2018
The accident of the Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy dam in Laos on the 23rd of last July has resulted in the death of 34 people and left approximately 100 people missing. 13,067 from 13 towns have been affected by the accident and amongst them, 7,095 from 6 towns which were directly damaged and hit. Considering the fact that the flooded water from the dam has reached the Cambodian border, the total damages have exceeded the level of expectation.
This should not be treated as a simple accident. The benefit from the development was exploited by the big enterprises and the government, and the locals who have less power suffered from the consequences of the risks. A whopping 90 percentage of the electricity produced from the dam was supposed to export to Thailand and never meant to be consumed in Laos. From the beginning of this project, it has never been for the sake of the people of Laos. Claiming to serve a role as ‘the battery of Asia’ by carrying out excessive numbers of hydropower dam projects, the Laos government was going to enjoy the financial profit. Also, SK Engineering and Construction (SK E&C), the main constructor, and Korean Western Power KOWEPO), the operator for the next 27 years, were all along set to taste the sweetness from the development. The local residents in the dam-constructing sites were left with the painful bitterness from having the environment destroyed and being displaced from their ancestral homes. As it was not enough, they lost their beloved families, and their homes have been demolished. We cannot help but asking for whom this development was designed.
The Korean government also takes responsibility for this tragedy. The Xe Pian/Xe Nam Noy project was jointly promoted with the Korean government and enterprises. This was the first Public Private Partnership (PPP) sponsored by Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) from the Export-Import Bank of Korea as a Korea’s Official Development Assistance (ODA). The Ministry of Strategy and Finance of Korea extensively advertised this project as a new model of financial conglomerates combining ‘an aid’ and ‘an exportation’. ODA is constructed with the tax raised by the citizens for the purpose of ending poverty in developing countries and implementing humanitarianism around the globe. However the project in Laos, instead, took thousands of people’s homes causing hundreds of cases of missing people and over tens of people’s death.
Therefore we demand the Korean government and enterprises who are responsible for the Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy dam accident follow below.
First, the Korean government must perform the truth-finding mission of the Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam with sincere responsibility. It was announced that the Laos government will organize the Investigation Committee of the Accident in order to look into the cause of the accident thoroughly, and will ask for the cooperation of the Korean government and the Thai government in the process. SK Engineering and Construction (SK E&C) claims that the cause of the accident is the overflow of the subsidiary dams due to heavy rainfall whereas Korea Western Power (KOWEPO) accounts for the collapse of the subsidiaries, which shows the reasons why an accurate investigation regarding the cause of the accident is utterly necessary. In addition, the process of location-selecting, planning, and building and the evaluation of its environmental and social effects should be examined so that possible wrongful aspects in those stages can be fully revealed. In order to extend the outcomes of the truth-finding investigation from a simple revelation of the cause to the stage where the rehabilitation and the prevention of additional damages or the re-occurrence are promised, the participation of the representatives of the affected towns, local NGOs and the international civil organizations, including Korea’s, must be guaranteed along with the transparency over the whole investigation process.
Second, the Korean government and SK E&C should provide long-term plans for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the areas that were damaged. Because of the accident, the citizens of Laos have lost a great deal including not only their families but also their homes and means of living. This cannot be resolved by emergency relief. The long-term plans for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected areas must be guaranteed and implemented by both the Korean government and SK E&C.
Third, the Korean government should study the limitations and problems of its activation policies regarding the PPP (Public Private Partnership) and establish its countermeasures. There have been numerous worries regarding the act of the companies who focus on profits without complying with social responsibilities and corporate ethics. This could hurt the purpose of development cooperation projects, which is to solve poverty and to contribute to the development in partner countries, by damaging the environment and the residents’ right to exist. Nevertheless, the Korean government has not prepared a code of conduct or a system for companies to follow when they participate in these development and cooperation projects. The accident is the very proof that the development cooperation projects, which seek only profits without considering the demands and needs of the community, could actually endanger many people's rights to survive and to live. Such a disaster would not have occurred if the voice of the local residents were heard when they expressed their concerns since the beginning of the project. This tremendous disaster should arouse the Korean government to review its policy of activating public-private cooperation projects.
Fourth, the Korean government should fully mandate the implementation of Safeguard, the primary system for preventing environmental, social and human-rights damages of large development projects and for protecting the rights of local residents. According to the EDCF Safeguard, it is stated that Safeguard is useful but not compulsory. If Safeguard is not mandatory, it is only nominal. Even if the responsibility for implementation is placed on the partner countries, the accountability cannot be fulfilled unless the Korean government manages and supervises the implementation process. A complete investigation should apply to the projects that have already started in order to ensure that they comply with Safeguard. Furthermore, it should be determined whether the Korean Safeguard operated at the field so that they do not adversely affect human rights and the environment. Possible improvements should be also considered. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) expressed its concerns in 2017 regarding not considering or demanding human rights related matters when Korea`s public financial institutions provided financial aid. The Korean government should introduce a Human Rights Impact Assessment according to this recommendation, which is to take further steps from the environmental and social impact assessments. In addition, relevant information such as project feasibility reports and environmental and social impact assessment reports should be transparently made public.
That is the minimum responsibility to ensure that such tragic accidents do not happen again.
We will actively cooperate with the people of Laos and local organizations and urge a thorough truth-finding investigation into the cause of the accident. We will also continue our activities to improve legal and institutional mechanisms in the development and cooperation sector for sustainable development of the partner countries.
The Coordinated Response Team of the Korean Civil Societies for the Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy Dam Collapse
Energy & Climate Policy Institute / Korean Federation for Environmental Movement/ KTNC Watch / PEACE MOMO / People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy / PIDA / Truth Foundation
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