Once bitten: Vietnam province opposes hydropower plant

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This waterfall on the Say Stream in Kon Chu Rang Nature Reserve in Gia Lai Province will dry out once the Vinh Son 2 hydropower plant is built, experts said. Photo credit: Doan Vinh/ Nguoi Lao Dong This waterfall on the Say Stream in Kon Chu Rang Nature Reserve in Gia Lai Province will dry out once the Vinh Son 2 hydropower plant is built, experts said. Photo credit: Doan Vinh/ Nguoi Lao Dong

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Gia Lai authorities are opposing a plan to build a hydropower plant that a company has submitted to the government fearing it could cause similar damages the Central Highlands province has already suffered from other plants.
“The Vinh Son 2 hydropower plant will cause huge damages to the Ba River’s lowland,” the media quoted Kpah Thuyen, deputy chairman of the Gia Lai People’s Committee, as saying.
The An Khe – Kanak Hydropower Plant, which began to generate power in 2005, has diverted water from the Ba to the Con River, damaging the environment and affecting many people, he said.
Vinh Son – Song Hinh Hydropower JSC recently proposed construction of the Vinh Son 2 hydropower plant in the Kon Chu Rang Nature Reserve.
The 80 MW plant on the upstream of the Con will cost around VND1 trillion (US$45 million).
Pham Xuan Truong, a Kbang District official, said the dam is planned in a primitive forest with invaluable animal and plant species.
“The hydropower plant will significantly damage tourism and people’s lives. We oppose this project.”
The dam will inundate 265 hectares of primitive forest in the nature reserve and dry out 10km of the Say Stream in the dry season, which will wreak havoc on the ecosystem in the Con River’s upstream.
The Con and its tributaries are major suppliers of water in the 16,000-hectare reserve, which is known for many beautiful waterfalls of more than 50 meters and 546 flora and 392 fauna species.
‘Insignificant damage’
The Vinh Son – Song Hinh Hydropower JSC has claimed however that the dam would not cause any significant damage as feared by the provincial authorities.
Huynh An, a company spokesman, said the project would only damage 16 hectares of forest, including nine hectares of land and seven hectares of stream.
“The dam overlaps Gia Lai and Binh Dinh provinces and the area in Gia Lai is very small because it will be built in the nature reserve. We have calculated to minimize damage.”
The Gia Lai People’s Committee is wrong to say the project would divert the river’s flow because water would be discharged back into the Con, he said.
The company would wait for the government’s feedback on the province’s fears before working with central agencies and Gia Lai and Binh Dinh authorities to clarify further about the project, he said.
Century’s mistake
Local officials are concerned that the Song Hinh 2 will worsen the damages caused by the An Khe – Kanak Hydropower Plant in the past decade.
The media has dubbed the 173 MW An Khe Kanak Hydropower Plant as the “mistake of the century” for the massive damages it has caused.
Since the dam was built, the Ba’s sections in Gia Lai and Phu Yen have often dried out in dry season.
In 2011 the dam discharged without warning a huge volume of water that washed away crops and caused damages estimated at VND10 billion.
In 2013 the dam’s managers were again accused of discharging water without prior notice and inundating many houses in the An Khe town.
Earlier this year more than 200km of the Ba had run dry and thousands of families were affected.
“Residents have been complaining about the An Khe – Kanak Hydropower Plant constantly since it began to operate. Floods and droughts caused by the plant have affected millions of people in Gia Lai and Phu Yen,” Huynh Thanh, a Gia Lai lawmaker, said.
Phan Xuan Vu, director of the province Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said the plant is a lesson for prospective hydropower plants nationwide.
“The government should look into those damages before approving another project.”

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