Viet Nam News
BÌNH ĐỊNH — Hundreds of people from Bình Định Province’s Phù Mỹ District have refused to leave a camp set up in protest to a US$62 million solar project over fears of its environmental impacts.
On Monday, the district People’s Committee organised an urgent meeting to address the issue.
According to Nguyễn Văn Dũng, the chairman of Phù Mỹ District’s People’s Committee, on November 10 vehicles carrying engineers were sent to the Trà Ổ lagoon area to remove landmines left over from the wartime, but residents of Mỹ Thắng Commune obstructed their work and eventually impounded three vehicles.
The protesters claimed the Phù Mỹ project would involve destroying vast tracts of the casuarina forest that shielded coastal lands against erosion, and they would only release the cars if local authorities agreed to cancel the project.
“We have held many meetings with locals to explain the situation, and talked at length about the project to gain their support, but a few have refused to listen and encouraged others to protest,” Dũng said.
A group of district and commune officials as well as local border military personnel had been sent to the site to talk with the protesters, and another similar session had been scheduled with the protesters’ leaders, Vietnam News Agency quoted Dũng as saying.
They were thought to be from eight households that had illegally encroached on land already zoned off for the project, who had “given no reason” for their protests and “issued unreasonable demands”, Dũng told the media.
He has also promised that local people could set up a supervision group to monitor the construction and operation of the solar power plant.
A month after the Trà Ổ solar project was officially approved, locals from Mỹ Châu and Mỹ Lợi communes objected the project, citing concerns over the project’s impacts on the lagoon’s aquatic resources, the environment and their own livelihoods.
On November 5, Chairman of the Bình Định People’s Committee Hồ Quốc Dũng also held talks with Mỹ Lợi Commune to dispel these concerns, reiterating that the project would not have a negative impact on the environment, while fostering the local economy and creating more jobs.
The Phù Mỹ power plant project, with an installed capacity of 330MW, is situated on an area of 320ha – including 60ha of Trà Ổ lagoon’s water surface – all of which belong to the State. The land use rights have been given to the Việt Nam Renewable Energy JSC, the project’s main investor.
The plant is slated to start operations in the second quarter of 2019. The Ministry of Industry and Trade has included the plant in the revised Việt Nam Power Development Plan VII for 2016-30. — VNS