Vietnam’s agriculture ministry has proposed canceling a hydropower project in the Central Highlands to preserve the environment and avoid threatening the existence of tigers and elephants.
The ministry said in a statement that the project at Yok Don National Park in Dak Lak Province will robbed many wild animals of their habitat.
Data showed that Vietnam has only five tigers left in the wild, mostly in the central region that borders Laos. Meanwhile, the number of elephants in Dak Lak, home to the largest wild elephant population in Vietnam, has fallen from 2,000 in the 1980s to around 60.
The ministry said construction of a dam for the project on the Srepok River will also affect the river’s biodiversity. The rise of water at some parts may also facilitate the illegal transport of wood from the park, it said.
The 26-megawatt plant, with a cost estimate of VND850-billion (US$38-million), has been licensed to take over 90 hectares of forest land in the park.
TECCO, an investment and construction firm based in Ho Chi Minh City, is the developer. It is hiring a consultant for environmental impact assessment.
The agriculture ministry itself in 2009 asked the country’s prime minister to let Dak Lak use the forest land for hydropower development. The project was approved August 2009.
But after seven years, the ministry has apparently changed its mind.
It said the Central Highlands has seen serious loss of forest coverage in the past five years, of around 6 percent, especially around Yok Don National Park.
That loss, coupled with climate change impacts, has caused extremely harsh weather conditions in the area, which is going through the worst drought in decades this year.
There have been adverse impacts to the sustainable social development of local communities as well, the ministry said.