Agricultural officials in the central province of Quang Nam have asked the provincial administration to reject a power plant investor's request to fell 745 hectares of forest to help resettled residents farm.
On March 15, the Hydroelectricity Project Management Board No. 3, an Electricity of Vietnam unit, submitted an appeal to the Quang Nam's People's Committee, saying it needed to cut down trees and turned the forest into a cultivation area for 413 families relocated by the Tranh River 2 Hydropower Plant.
They now live in a resettlement area near the forest but the investor is yet to compensate them for farms that had been taken over to build the power plant.
"A hectare of arable land costs around VND100 million (US$5,260) and it will be a big expense for us to pay compensation," the Hydroelectricity Project Management Board No. 3 said.
Nguyen Thanh Quang, director of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the investor should have allotted the relocation area for resettled residents' farming before constructing the power plant.
"They [the investor] began work on the plant several years ago but didn't plan the relocation. It's unacceptable that 745 hectares of forest, mainly protective forest are cut down," he said.
Quang also insinuated that there may be more to the request for forest land than meets the eye.
"Large trees in the forest may be the reason that some Hydroelectricity Project Management Board No. 3 officials want to cut them down," he said.
Since 2004, more than 4,400 hectares of land, including 3,300 hectares of forest, have been cleared for hydroelectric plants, significantly reducing the forest's capacity to hold water upstream, according to the agricultural department.