Vietnam province suspends, cancels dams saying losses outweigh gains

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People in Quang Nam Province travel on a boat as construction of a hydropower plant has flooded an area.

Authorities in the central province of Quang Nam, home to the largest number of hydropower plants in Vietnam, have decided to suspend and cancel 19 projects due to the damage such projects are causing to the environment and locals.

The decision was announced at a meeting Wednesday after the provincial administration reviewed all projects under operation and construction, news website Dan Tri reported.

They suspended 17 projects and canceled two small projects on which work had not yet begun.

Le Phuoc Thanh, the province's chairman, said "Local people have lost more than gained from hydropower projects."

He said a lot of damage has been caused so far, including loss of forests, cultivation land, and balance in the ecosystem. Rivers were dying, there was water shortage during the dry season and flooding of downstream areas during the rainy season, he said.

People displaced by such projects have not received proper relocation homes and related services and facilities, he said.

"The more projects that are canceled, the better."

Quang Nam officials also said they're going to put a limit on similar investments as it is not worth the damage they cause.

Nguyen Minh Tuan, head of the province's Irrigation Department, said "they do not contribute much to the country's energy demand but leave big impacts all the same. So I think it should be a no."

Quang Nam is home to 44 approved hydropower plant projects, eight of which under construction and seven others are already in operation, including the central region's largest and the nation's most controversial, Song Tranh 2.

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The dam has achieved notoriety by causing hundreds of earthquakes and many house cracks in the area since it started operations in late 2011.

It was also criticized in November 2011, along with other hydropower plants in the region, including the large A Vuong dam, for worsening floods that killed 24 people. They released excess water from their reservoirs without giving local residents enough advance notice.

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