September 12, 2018 / 1:24 PM / 2 months ago

Laos considers future hydropower plans after dam burst

FILE PHOTO - Parents carry their children as they leave their home during the flood after the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam collapsed in Attapeu province, Laos July 26, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

HANOI (Reuters) - Laos will take into account the devastation caused by a dam burst in July when it considers how to proceed with investment in hydropower, seen as an important income source for one of Asia’s poorest countries, its prime minister said on Wednesday.

The Laos government suspended approval of new dams and said it would review all dams currently under construction following the collapse of part of a hydropower project in southern Attapeu province that killed scores of people and drove many more from their homes.

“The impact of the incident in July is something that we will continue to take into account in moving forward in terms of our hydropower production,” Thongloun Sisoulith said at a World Economic Forum event in Hanoi.

He said Laos will continue to study other options of renewable and clean energy generation such as solar panel and wind turbines.

Reports have suggested that Laos’ hydropower potential could see it become the “battery of Southeast Asia” by selling power to neighbors.

Laos had 46 operating hydroelectric power plants in 2017, with 54 more planned or under construction, and sales of electricity abroad make up about 30 percent of its exports.

But Sisoulith said he did not agree with the “battery” tag.

“Our capacity to develop electricity in Laos compared to the demand of neighboring countries is very limited,” he said.

Reporting by John Geddie and Khanh Vu; editing by David Evans

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