It's official: Cat Tien is dam-free

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The Bau Sau Ramsar wetlands at Cat Tien national park in Dong Nai. Photo courtesy of Nguoi Lao Dong

Ending two years of debates over environmental concerns, the Ministry of Industry and Trade said in its latest report to the legislature it has canceled two hydropower projects planned for Cat Tien National Park.

The ministry's report on hydropower plant development submitted to the National Assembly for the ongoing session did not include Dong Nai 6 and Dong Nai 6A, which were proposed by the agriculture ministry in June 2011. De-listing them in the report is the equivalent of cancelation.

Late last month Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai, also Minister of Industry and Trade, had received a report on the likely environmental impacts of the dams from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

The report said the dams would destroy more than 327 hectares of forests including 128 ha of Cat Tien National Park in Dong Nai Province northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, and badly affect the Bau Sau (Crocodile Lake) wetlands inside the park and the flow of the Dong Nai River, which is the longest river that flows entirely within Vietnam and a major water source for the south.

Bau Sau has been listed on the Ramsar list of wetlands, which now has more than 2,110 sites worldwide. It is based on the Ramsar Convention, an agreement between 165 member governments on the sustainable use of wetlands.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature also urged UNESCO to put pressure on the removal of the dams as Cat Tien, which is home to around 1,700 precious plants and more than 700 species of animals and birds, several of which are endangered, is a UNESCO world biosphere reserve.

Eleven ethnic minority groups live around the park.

Dong Nai officials earlier this year also sent petition to the government objecting the dams with a planned total capacity of 241 MW. UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Program last year sought the province's help in stopping the construction.

Besides the high-profile dams, the ministry also announced the scrapping of 422 other projects with a total capacity of more than 1,174 MW due to low economic effects coupled with high social and environmental risks.

It also halted work on 294 other projects until at least after 2015.

That left 815 projects, including 268 current operations that are generating 14,240 MW, and 205 pending to be put into use by 2017 for a further 6,200 MW.

Vietnam depends on hydropower plants for up to 40 percent of its electricity demand.

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