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Hydro-power plants halted over eco-fears

Update: March, 11/2013 - 09:47

KON TUM (VNS)— Kon Tum has become the latest province in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam to scrap planned hydro-power project, after forests have been lost, villagers left without resettlement options and the downstream river basin severely degraded.

According to the provincial People's Committee, as many as 21 hydro-electricity projects have been removed from its power planning, but there are still 48 plants either being developed or operating.

Since last year, hundreds of hydro-electricity dam projects in the central region and Central Highlands have either been put on hold or stopped as serious social and environmental consequences of the hydroelectric dam boom in earlier years have been realised.

In Kon Tum and elsewhere in the Central Highlands, resident are struggling with the consequences.

Nguyen Thanh Binh, a resident in Sa Thay District voiced his concerns about technical safety and environmental damage. "A number of dams have sprung leaks, revealing the appalling fact that many issues have gone unmonitored. In addition, dam development has led to forest loss and agricultural disruption," he said.

Meanwhile, 150 households in Dak Glei District's Dak Choong Commune were reported to have had a tough time over the last three years. Their houses and 200ha of agricultural land were cleared or residents for the Dak Mi 1 hydropower plant by its investors, Gia Lai-based Quang Duc Company, but still no place has been found for them to relocate to.

"We have been waiting to go to other places to resettle but, honestly, I do not know how long we will still have to wait," said A Chep, a community leader.

Although the precept for a sustainable development of a hydro-power plant is to relocate affected people to places that are at least as economically viable, what has happened in reality is not even remotely close, he said.

In Kon Tum's neighbouring province, Gia Lai, the development of the 173-MW An Khe-Knak hydro-power plant has pushed thousands of households into dire straits. When this plant went into operation, the flow of the Ba River diminished, causing irreversible damage to the downstream basin.

A number of other rivers in the Central Highlands, including Dak Snghe, Dak Bla and Se San, are said to have suffered the similar fate with the Thuong Kon Tum 220-MW plant.

Local authorities of Gia Lai Province have suggested the Government stop developing hydro-power plants.

During a recent working session with Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, chairman of Gia Lai People's Committee Pham The Dung said it was time to call a halt to hydroelectric dam development in his province. — VNS


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