An excessive number of hydropower dams are threatening to destroy Dong Nai Vietnam's largest endogenous river, experts said at a Saturday seminar.
Tran Van Thanh, director of the Cat Tien National Park in Dong Nai Province that the river flows through, said "the matter of dam construction needs to gather public opinion"¦ Economic growth is necessary but we have to estimate the loss and gains from these constructions as it's very dangerous that their impacts on the environment and residents are not predicted."
Thanh was speaking at the seminar held to discuss suggestions and warnings by the World Commission on Dams over the ongoing dam constructions on the Dong Nai River.
Nine dams have been built on the river, some already put in use, while its downstream section, the Be River, bears six dams and the tributary La Nga, another five.
And a further six dams are still planned on the river.
Dams will change much of the river's ecology, the Nam Cat Tien forest, and the livelihood of residents around the basin, experts said.
As the dams are planned to form a ladder, experts said they were worried about the domino effect when the dams release water, given that there are no rules about how much will be discharged or how the dams will coordinate then.
Lam Dong Province in the river's upstream area has seen dams destroy more than 15,000 hectares of natural forest. Experts said Nam Cat Tien may end up suffering the same fate.
Luong Van Ngu, deputy director of Lam Dong Department of Natural Resources and Environment, recalled the situation of A Vuong hydropower plant in Quang Nam Province.
The dam had released 150 million cubic meters of water during storm Ketsana September last year, worsening flooding that killed at least 163 people and caused over US$786 million worth of property damage.
Ngu said the lesson of A Vuong should be taught nationwide.
"If dams are allowed to be built everywhere, rivers in Vietnam, especially endogenous ones, will pay the price. And people living downstream the dams will suffer heavy consequences," he said.
Experts at the seminar said some businesses investing in the dams knew nothing about dam construction, thus several dams will not operate in harmony.
Also, the dam investors either don't know how to research and study their impacts on the environment or don't want to pay for it, the officials said.