Vietnam minister wants hydropower plants to pay for damages caused by water discharge

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The Vietnamese environment minister told the press Thursday that the ministry will consider making hydropower companies pay for damages caused by their discharge of water from dams.

Recently, hydropower dams have been criticized for worsening flooding in the central region and for damaging residents' property.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Nguyen Minh Quang said the ministry would consider adding an article on the responsibility of individuals and companies in the discharge of flood waters in the amended Water Resources Law.

He admitted that the rampant construction of hydropower projects in the past few years has made managing reservoirs and the discharge of water difficult. 

"The government should halt hydropower projects to revise what is good and what is bad in them," newswire VnExpress quoted Quang as saying.

He said the Department of Water Resources Management will revise and adjust the operational process of reservoirs nationwide in future.

As heavy rains fell in the central region between November 4 and 9, the discharge of water from dams caused the water level in local rivers to rise very high.

Residents say it will not be easy to recover from flood damage, as the hydropower companies discharge more water and because floods occur every year in this region.

In Thua Thien-Hue Province, two reservoirs owned by the Binh Dien and Huong Dien hydropower plants, the biggest in the province, opened on November 5 and have since caused floods that submerged more than 4,000 houses.

As soon as the waters were discharged, water levels on Huong and Bo Rivers in the province rose to alarming levels. Thousands of houses in the lowlands were submerged under water 0.5 to 1 meters.


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In Hue City, all the roads were submerged 0.5 meter, causing traffic gridlocks. The province also reported one death on November 5. Nguyen Huu Khang, a 14-year-old middle school student, was swept away by floods in a rural village.

On November 6, the Song Tranh II Hydropower Plant in Quang Nam Province released water from its swelling reservoirs, causing floods and landslides in Nam Tra My and Bac Tra My Districts.

Most roads in the two districts were submerged, and mountainous communes were totally isolated.

The same day, the Ba Ha River Hydropower Joint Stock Co. in Phu Yen Province released water from the Ba Ha River and Hinh River reservoirs.

Local residents complained that the company only gave a two-hour notice before the discharge. Because people living in low-lying areas did not have time to prepare for the discharge, they suffered severe property damage.

Le Can, a 46-year-old farmer, said people cannot move all their property to safe places in two hours.

Meanwhile, Dang Van Tuan, general director of the Ba Ha River Hydropower Joint Stock Co., quoted a government regulation as saying hydropower companies are allowed to discharge flood waters from reservoirs on a two-hour notice.

But the regulations also say that if local authorities think that two hours' notice is not enough, they can file a report with the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and the ministries can ask the government to adjust the regulation.

Le Van Truc, deputy chairman of the Phu Yen People's Committee, said they reported the issue to the ministries and were waiting for replies.

On Thursday, Minister Quang said the request is under consideration.

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