Dong Nai wants to scrap environmentally destructive dams

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Authorities in the southeastern province of Dong Nai have proposed that the government stop the construction of two planned hydropower plants in the province to protect a world biosphere reserve, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported.


In a petition sent to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung this week, the local government's vice chairman Nguyen Thanh Tri, who doubles as chief of the management board of the UNESCO-recognized Dong Nai Biosphere Reserve, asked the PM to eliminate the two dams from hydropower planning along Dong Nai River.


The petition says that once approved, the Dong Nai 6 and Dong Nai 6A projects will destroy 137.5 hectares of forest land in Cat Tien National Park, located 160 kilometers northeast of Ho Chi Minh City.


While acknowledging certain social and economic benefits of the projects, Dong Nai officials say the projects will have negative impacts on the environment and the livelihoods of local residents.


The construction will also bring about  risks beyond anticipation, the petition says.


The dams will badly affect the Bau Sau (Crocodile Lake) wetlands in the Cat Tien National Park and the currents of the Dong Nai River, causing floods in these rainy season and water shortage in the dry season, Tri wrote.


He said the dams will destroy the wildlife habitats in the park and bury cultural relics as well as adversely affect the lives of ethnic minority communities in the area.


The Cat Tien National Park is home to around 1,700 precious plants and more than 700 species of animals and birds, several of which are endangered.  The park has also been officially recognized as a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO.


The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has sought the government's approval to build the two plants, which will destroy  137.5 hectares of the park, and an additional 145 hectares of Nam Cat Tien forest.


The ministry said the construction is "appropriate to the country's electricity development planning," although it admitted that the plans will affect forest resources and bio-diversity in the park.


A number of government agencies, environmental groups, and local administrations have joined the campaign opposing to the two dams, saying the two dams must be stopped.

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