Scientists question environment impact assessments of Vietnam power projects

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A group of scientists who made a field trip to the area near Cat Tien National Park where two hydropower projects are planned said Thursday environment impact assessments for them could have been made up.

The scientists from the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology's Institute of Tropical Biology, accompanied by reporters from the Tuoi Tre newspaper, concluded after their one-week trip that the report contained many wrongful facts.

Those who made the report did not actually survey the area, they said.

The Southern Institute for Water Resources Planning (SIWRP) claimed it was assigned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to make the report on environment impacts of the Dong Nai 6 and Dong Nai 6A dams that would encroach on the national park.

The dams, of which the investor is the Duc Long Gia Lai Group, would submerge 137.5 hectares of forest in the UNESCO listed biosphere reserve.

However, the SIWRP report says "there are no protected ecosystems and no endangered species in the submerged area of the two projects."

Vu Ngoc Long, deputy chief of the Institute of Tropical Biology, who led the inspection team, said: "I think the people who made the report did not go to the sites where the two projects are planned to be built on."

"The dams would encroach on a stretch of primeval forest of the park, where we found many kinds of precious timber in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, as well as valuable plant species.

"We also found a number of animals listed in the Vietnam Red List such as the black-shanked douc, the stump-tailed macaque, the pig-tailed macaque and the small Indian civet."

According to the scientists, several details of the SIWRP report were copied from documents and environmental impact assessments of other projects.

For example, the report says: "The projects would provide electricity for the southern region, boosting economic development of the region, particularly remote districts of Quang Nam Province."

In fact, the projects are planned to be built on the banks of the Dong Nai River, which does not run through the Quang Nam Province in the central region.

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Hydropower projects pose huge threats to national park: director

Tran Van Thanh, director of the Cat Tien National Park, said that although the two projects would encroach on a small area of the 72,000 hectare park, they would affect its ecosystem and increase risks of illegal logging and poaching.

These risks are not mentioned in the report, he noted.

Risks

Scientists also raised concerns about the livelihood of residents who live in the planned sites of the projects in Lam Dong, Dak Nong and Binh Phuoc provinces.

Lam Dinh Uy, an environment expert at the institute, said riverside farming of 30 M'Nong ethnic households on the upper stream of the Dong Nai 6A dam would be directly affected.

Several dozens of households that make a living by fishing on the lower stream will lose their jobs, he said.

There is no doubt that the projects will pose huge threats to the park's ecosystem, including extinction of ear-extinct species, scientists also said.

Dr. Le Anh Tuan of Can Tho University told Tuoi Tre that a National Assembly resolution stated that any projects which would encroach on 50 hectares that belong to nature reserves and protected forests must be submitted to the National Assembly for discussion and approval.

"So the fate of the Dong Nai 6 and Dong Nai 6A must be determined by the Assembly," he said.

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