Lawmakers should decide fate of controversial dams: environment ministry

TN News

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The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) has said that the fate of two hydropower projects planned near Cat Tien National Park must be determined by the National Assembly.

The ministry last week rejected a request to have environmental impact assessments done for the Dong Nai 6 and Dong Nai 6A hydropowe plants by their investor, the Duc Long Gia Lai Group.

The plants would encroach on an area of 137 hectares of the Cat Tien National Park, and 145 hectares of Nam Cat Tien forest.

"The ministry rejected the request since the projects did not satisfy environmental requirements," said Le Hoai Nam, deputy chief of Environment Assessment Department. 

In Vietnam, hydropower projects are licensed after environment authorities assess their environmental impacts.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had previously given the nod to the two projects, saying the construction was "appropriate to the country's electricity development planning."

The ministry was assigned to be a consultant for the government in evaluating the projects.

Meanwhile, local scientists and the management board of the Cat Tien National Park have strongly protested the projects.

They said the rampant construction of dams would badly affect forestry resources and biodiversity of Vietnam's UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve.

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Located just 160 kilometers northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, the Cat Tien National Park is hoped to many rare species and endemic genes of fauna and flora.

The natural area of the park is 71,920 hectares that straddle Dong Nai, Binh Phuoc and Lam Dong provinces.

After the discovery of a population of Vietnamese Javan Rhinoceros in 1992, the park was declared a Rhinoceros Reserve that received worldwide attention.

Conservationists have for long raised concerns about the excessive number of hydropower dams on the Dong Nai River that are threatening to change much of the river's ecology and also pose a threat to the Nam Cat Tien Forest and the livelihood of residents in the river basin.

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