Residents have been warned to vacate land around a hydropower dam in the Central Highlands that began dramatically sinking last week.
The warning affected 100 families living and farming near the Dong Nai 2 Reservoir, which occupies portions of Di Linh and Lam Ha Districts in Lam Dong Province, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported Tuesday.
Last week, roughly 100 hectares of land near the reservoir began sinking, cracking and sliding toward the water, the paper said.
Dang Quang, a local resident said his 4,000 square meter coffee plantation sank overnight, causing nearly 1,000 mature coffee bushes to be uprooted.
“It was raining last night and my and I wife didn't dare to sleep. We were worried the land would fall out from under out house at any minute.”
They awoke, in the morning, to discover a scene of “gloomy devastation,” Quang said.
Roughly 200 meters of his farm sank a full three meters.
The floor at his house also developed cracks that now mar his walls.
His two children went to stay with neighbors’ further away, fearing the worst.
Dang Van Xuan, another local who owns a pond near Quang’s coffee garden, said sliding land had filled up most of the pond by Sunday night.
A week before that, landslides and erosion severely damaged 51 hectares of coffee and other crop land in Di Linh District, according to official figures.
Luong Van Tu, an affected farmer, said someone had offered him VND2 billion for his two-hectare coffee farm ten days before the incident.
“But now that the field is cracked all over, I couldn't give it away,” he said.
Dang Quang, a Lam Dong Province, local, on his sinking coffee field near the Dong Nai 2 Hydropower Dam. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
Dieu Van Quang witnessed the landslide in front of his house on the evening of September 16.
“It was raining hard. I sat indoors and saw soil sliding down in front of me. In less than an hour, the landslide pulled eight electric poles more than ten meters,” Quang said.
Locals said no one wants to buy their land now, and if they stay, they’ll worry every minute.
The 70-MW plant was built with more than $158.7 million.
Le Xuan Tham, director of Lam Dong Science and Technology Department, said the dam's reservoir was the most likely suspect.
“People should not build houses in the area and avoid staying there at night as their lives may be in danger,” Tham told Tuoi Tre.
Le Anh Tuan, a senior official from the dam’s investor Trung Nam Hydropower JSC, said he will keep the land problems in mind.
Tuan said environmental checks before the dam project began revealed no signs of danger.
People should not build houses in the area and avoid staying there at night as their lives may be in danger.” -- Le Xuan Tham, director of Lam Dong Science and Technology Department
But a different survey carried out after similar problems occurred late last year revealed medium and high risks of such hazards in the area.
The survey, conducted by provincial science and environmental officials
noted that the surface of the area wasn't solid or stable.
Le Viet Phu, vice chairman of Di Linh People's Committee, said that the officials were prompted to persuade 11 families to leave their homes in the area and pay 46 affected families VND300 million (US$14,150) in total.
The Central Highlands region has approved 485 hydropower plants -- the largest number in the country -- with a total capacity of nearly 10,000 megawatts.
118 have already been built and 75 are under construction.
The Central Highlands Steering Committee, a regional government advisory group, issued a statement last June suggesting a two-year moratorium on hydropower plant construction to prevent further damage.
They said the plants have displaced thousands of locals, consumed large swaths of farm land and damaged the rest by hoarding water in the dry season and discharging it during the rainy season.
Hydropower plants generate roughly 40 percent of Vietnam's electricity.