Hydropower dam leaks in central Vietnam

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A man points to a leak as journalists take photos and shoot film at the Song Tranh 2 hydropower plant in the central province of Quang Nam on March 21

A design error has led to several leaks at Song Tranh 2 the biggest hydropower dam in the Vietnam's central region, an official has said, adding that the problem was not serious enough to warrant lower water levels in its reservoir.

Bui Trung Dung, deputy head of the agency for assessment of state construction projects under the Ministry of Construction, led a team to inspect the dam in Quang Nam Province's Bac Tra My District on March 21.

"There is no pipe system to drain water from several chambers inside the dam. There are also no pressure washers in joints and as a result water has been leaking through," he said.

At a meeting with Quang Nam authorities and the dam management, Dung said that these were "normal cracks" and it was unnecessary to lower the reservoir water level to fix them.

According to a report the Electricity of Vietnam (EVN), the national power utility, sent to the Ministry of Industry and Trade and relevant agencies on March 21, there were no cracks in the dam and water had leaked through slits between concrete blocks.

It said the water had leaked through six of the dam's total 30 slits that were designed to prevent concrete from developing cracks due to temperature changes.

Water has been leaking at a speed of 30 liters per second at the dam, but it "does not affect the safety of the project", EVN said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the central government has instructed relevant agencies to urgently inspect and find solutions to the leaks at the dam that has grabbed headlines over the past week and worried residents in the vicinity of the dam.

Le Tri Tap, former chairman of the Quang Nam People's Committee and an experienced water resources engineer, said relevant agencies have attempted to conceal a possible "disaster."

"The first forbidden issue in constructing a hydropower dam is not to allow water to leak out from the reservoir. But the leaks actually flowed in streams," he said, adding that the current measures of pumping chemicals into the cracks was of no use.

"The most urgent thing is to lower the water level. They should take care of the residents' lives. Should any accident happen, it would be a disaster."

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