Vietnam scraps a dozen planned hydropower projects

By Ngan Anh, TN News

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The surge in hydropower plants over the past ten years has resulted in a wide range of problems including flooding, dam breaks, earthquakes, forest loss and ecological destruction. Photo: Quoc Anh The surge in hydropower plants over the past ten years has resulted in a wide range of problems including flooding, dam breaks, earthquakes, forest loss and ecological destruction. Photo: Quoc Anh

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The Ministry of Industry and Trade has scrapped 12 planned hydropower projects citing low economic benefits and high social and environmental risks, said Dang Huy Cuong, head of the General Department of Energy.

The projects were scheduled to be built in Dien Bien Province in the north, Quang Ngai in the center, and Kon Tum in the central highlands, he said at a recent review of hydropower projects held by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, and provincial people’s committees.

To date, the government has removed 415 small projects from its hydroelectric development plan.

Cuong said investors in hydropower projects are mainly private firms with a poor understanding of the issues involved. Many hire hastily-established advisory agencies with limited experience, and construction enterprises with poor capacity to implement the projects.

During the construction process, some investors adjust the capacity of the hydroelectric projects or alter their designs without permission from related authorities, he said.

The ministry is now seeking to strengthen oversight on hydroelectric projects, especially small ones, he said.

Echoing Cuong, Nguyen Xuan Tien, chairman of the People’s Committee of Lam Dong province, said whole forests were cut down for small hydroelectric projects that proved ineffective.

Compensation for local residents whose farms and houses were seized for the power plants has been slow to arrive due to investors’ poor financial capacity, Tien said.

Dr. Dao Trong Tu, advisor to the Vietnam River Network, said the country has too many hydropower projects. Starting roughly a decade ago, investors with little knowledge of the field rushed to build hydropower plants because they were seeking high profits.

The surge in hydropower plants over the past ten years has resulted in a wide range of problems including flooding, earthquakes, forest loss and ecological destruction.

Vietnam is now home to 284 operational hydroelectric projects with combined capacity of 14,678 MW.

The country also has 204 hydropower projects under construction with total potential capacity of 6,146 MW that's expected to come into operation by 2017, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

In Vietnam, hydropower accounts for some 40 percent of the total output.

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