Lower basin residents endangered by unscrupulous resevoir owners

Update: October, 07/2013 - 08:33

Discharging water from reservoirs during floods is usual for hydro-power plants. Dr Le Bac Huynh, from the Association of Conservation of Nature and Environment, told Khoa hoc va Doi song newspaper that this must be done safely.

How many hours following the issue of a public notification can a hydro power plant start discharging water?

It depends on the size of the hydro-power plant and its impact on people living in the lower basin. But in reality none of the Vietnamese hydro power plants have followed standard procedures. They do inform the public about their plans to discharge water, but only one or two hours before. With short notice, how can people move their property to a safer place?

Sometimes they barely have time to move themselves.

Why don't the authorities follow standard procedures? It doesn't cost them anything to do so.

There are hundreds of reasons, both objective and subjective. They think they have the right to make their own rules, despite the fact that under the law they have to co-ordinate with local authorities and consult with before taking a decision to discharge water.

One of the functions of a water reservoir is to adjust water levels during the flood or dry season, but in reality a water reservoir owner often only cares about their own interests and not the people living in the lower basin. Do you agree?

I couldn't agree more. People living in the lower basin are clearly the victims.

Principally speaking, hydro-power plants are good. But who are the owners of the plants? Most plants are privately owned. As you know, ownership benefits are most important to them. Reality has proven that.

In such a case, can't the people sue them?

It's not as simple as that. In my opinion, this issue should be properly treated and needs support from the general public, not just people are directly affected by water discharge.

In a nut shell, we need a benefit sharing mechanism between the local people and the enterprise. The latter gains benefits from exploiting the water resources while the people are placed in a detrimental position.

They suffer from floods, drought and even losses of resources such as fish and drinking water. Of course, during their operation of hydro-power plants, the owners pay tax to the government. But what they pay is miniscule compared to what they gain.

I support the idea that the people should stand up and sue them.

Before they build a hydro power plant, the owners should have to relocate the people living there, compensate them for the land and make other reparations.

If we cause them enough problems, don't you think the businessmen will give up their hydro-power plant investment plan?

I don't think so. As far as I know, investment in hydro-power plants is a highly profitable business. For a big project, the payback period could be in the region of seven years. For a smaller one, the payback period is about five years. Due to the lucrative rewards of the business, many people want to build hydro power plants, not just people in the energy sector. — VNS