Dam Safety Technical and Institutional Assistance in Lao PDR (DSTIA)

Following the Swiss support to the Nationwide Emergency Dam Safety Inspection, the Lao Government requested a longer-term Swiss support in strengthening the national dam safety regulatory and institutional frameworks. By increasing government’s law enforcement and technical capacities to international standards, the project will ensure better protection for downstream communities, estimated in 1,5 million people, and contribute to safe energy production and the sustainability of infrastructure.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Climate change and environment
Disaster risk reduction DRR
Water diplomacy and security
Energy policy
01.05.2021 - 31.03.2026
CHF  5’367’000

Hydropower dams are a priority of the Government for the economic development of Lao PDR, ensuring local provision of electricity as well as increasing national income from power export. They also represent a threat to the population in case of faulty design or construction, lack of maintenance, surveillance and failure to implement environmental and social safeguards. The Government of Lao PDR (GoL) recognizes that while building more hydropower dams will generate income for the country, it also increases social and environmental risks. Hence, ensuring the safety of energy production infrastructure is vital for people living around and downstream of dams as well as for securing an income for the State and providing a means of production for the local economy.

The Lao PDR’s 9th National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP) 2021-2025 confirms the relevance of hydropower for the country’s socio-economic development. It also stresses the importance of enhancing effective early warning system, disaster prevention and preparedness. The Dam Safety Technical and Institutional Assistance in Lao PDR (DSTIA) Project is a response to the Government of Laos priorities and demand.

With the current dam construction trend, more than 100 dams are expected by 2030. This reflects the interest of neighboring countries for power supply. The project will help inform the decisions with respect to legal framework, the setting of safety standards, and strengthen the capacity of the Lao authorities to ensure that safety measures are fully considered in dam construction, operation and maintenance. One key role of SDC, based on the Swiss unique expertise and similar experience in this field, will be to ensure that the law and by laws as well as operation and maintenance of dams are in conformity with international practices. This will be fostered in coordination with other development partners supporting this endeavor.

Objectives The overall goal of the project is to increase the safety of dams by strengthening the capacity of Laos to protect people, property and the environment from harmful effects of poor design, operation or failure in the maintenance of hydropower dams. 
Target groups

-        While medium to long term support focusing on the national system and on government officials managing large dams (≥15 MW) is being targeted, decision makers, relevant staff at provincial and district authorities will also benefit from the initiative.

-         The direct beneficiaries will be those living downstream or in catchment areas participating in activities supported by DSTIA, including the communities where emergency action plan trainings and drills will take place (including women and local leaders).

-         Faculty members, students, engineers and staff from public and private institutions (Electricité Du Laos) will benefit from trainings.

-        The indirect beneficiaries are the number of people reached by the program communication strategy including the general public in Lao PDR, through increased awareness of key issues on dam safety, international best practices and through knowledge generated by the project. 

Medium-term outcomes

Outcome 1: Technical capacities of the Ministry for Energy and Mines (MEM) are increased, enabling the Ministry to fulfil its mandate of dam safety supervisory authority

Outcome 2: Improved legal framework and functional dam safety institutions are set up based on international best practices, providing an enabling environment for dam safety enforcement

Outcome 3: Capacities of dam owners, operators and national university are enhanced, contributing to the creation of a pool of well qualified dam safety specialists


Expected results:  

-        The Department of Safety Management for Energy Industry/MEM’s technical competences to supervise dam safety practices are enhanced

-        The Nationwide Emergency Dam Safety Inspection recommendations are implemented by dam owners thanks to effective follow-up by the Department of Safety Management for Energy Industry /MEM.

-        A new Law on Dam Safety is approved by the National Assembly and the complementary by laws and Dam Safety Technical Standards / Guidelines are approved by the Government, respectively by the MEM.

-        The Lao Dam Management System (LDMS) is operational

-        Higher-level education is strengthened in fields related to dam engineering and safety

-        Emergency preparedness related to dam safety is enhanced, with emergency plans for the dams drafted and communicated to the local authorities and communities downstream. 

Results from previous phases:  

-        Department of Safety Management for Energy Industry officially established by the Prime Minister Decree

-        Lao Dam Safety Management System or software established for further use, training and development

-        Lao Association on Dam (LAD) officially established

-        Lao PDR became an full member of the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) in late 2020

-        Nationwide Emergency Dam Safety Inspection (NEDSI) Synthesis report established and presented to all relevant stakeholders in 2020.

-        15 priority dams monitored closely with International Advisers’ recommendations 

Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Project partners Contract partner
Private sector
Foreign state institution
Swiss Non-profit Organisation
  • Central State of South East
  • HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation
  • Foreign private sector South/East

Coordination with other projects and actors NZ Facility, WB, Australia, France, Japan, South Korea, EU and Germany
Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    5’367’000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    2’954’677
Project phases Phase 1 01.05.2021 - 31.03.2026   (Current phase)