Viet Nam News
QUẢNG NAM — Big infrastructure projects like hydropower plants are meant to make people’s lives better, but the opposite is true in Quảng Nam Province.
The ethnic minority people of Z’lao, a small remote village in Dang Commune, Tây Giang District, know this only too well.
In December 2008, A Vương hydropower plant was put into use in Tây Giang District after five years of construction. Since then, the village has often been isolated when rainy season comes.
Today, the residents in the village of 45 households and 187 Cơ Tu ethnic minority people still live in temporary housing and without roads, schools and electricity.
In the past, the village was located near A Vương River and residents and vehicles could travel easily.
But to build the hydropower plant, residents were forced to give up some of their land for the project.
When A Vương hydropower plant, the second-largest hydropower project in the province, was put in operation and the river volume increased, Z’lao villagers had to move to higher land, to the middle of the mountain, Bríu Le, former chairman of Dang Commune People’s Committee told Lao Động (Labour) newspaper.
"The most difficult thing for people living in Z’lao Village is transportation. The village is completely isolated in rainy season and local residents have to use small boats to travel,” he said.
The main road for daily travel was also submerged in water and only one suspension bridge connects residents with the other side, but it is used for walking only. People often had to travel using boats, he said.
On rainy days, people did not dare to travel by boats because they could capsize at any moment. People have to stay overnight in temporary tents after they work in paddy fields during the day, said Bríu Le.
Some pregnant women have given birth on the way to the healthcare station because many sections of the mountain road were difficult to pass, he added.
Some say Z’lao is a peaceful village, and it is, because no motorcycles can reach the village.
The village also does not have the sounds of televisions or karaoke like other mountain villages because they do not have electricity, something the villagers desperately want.
Although the village is located next to the second-largest hydropower plant in the province, they still live in darkness.
A local resident said the only source of light in the whole village was the water turbines located on the stream.
He said local people get electricity from the plant but not enough and sometimes there was no electricity, he said.
At the beginning of this year, Tây Giang District provided 10 water turbines to the village but residents could not use the machines on rainy days or during floods, said Bríu Cành, an officer of Z’lao village office.
People in the village had to live with these difficulties, he said.
According to Bríu Le, residents had not foreseen the negative impacts of the hydropower plant so they agreed to give up their land for the plant for little compensation.
The fight against poverty and hunger is a daily struggle, and with no roads, no electricity, no schools and no medical stations, people’s lives are difficult.
Their main income is from growing maize and rice, and collecting forest products such as honey and bamboo shoots, but due to the difficult road and isolation in the rainy season, traders do not come to buy their products, the newspaper reported.
They have to store necessities such as salt, instant noodles, soap and medicine when the rainy season comes.
Students also face many difficulties. There is no kindergarten, students in grades 1 to 4 have to study in a temporary school and the students in higher grades have to study and stay at schools in Tây Giang District for months at a time because school is far from their home.
Many have dropped out of school.
In 2017, Tây Giang District invested about VNĐ1 billion to open a road about 12km long connected to the main road of the commune to help local people travel.
After nearly one year of construction, only 3km of road has been completed and construction has halted due to a lack of funds, said Nguyễn Thanh Tâm, chairman of Dang Commune People’s Committee.
This road is only used for walking, motorbikes and cars can not travel, according to Tâm.
“There is no choice, local residents have to travel by boats. On rainy days, they are given life jackets for safety,” he said.
Tâm said the existence of hydropower plant had changed the face of the land and river, and no new accommodation has been provided for the Co Tu ethnic people.
The plant has been operating for several years but investors have yet to finish building resettlement houses for residents, he said.
The People’s Committee of Tây Giang district is reportedly clearing land to relocate Z’lao residents, but a shortage of funds is hindering the work. — VNS