Hydropower Plants threat to Central Highlands

The existing Hydropower Plants in the Central Highlands are posing a grave threat after four incidents in a matter of just two years have led to loss of human lives, property and farm crops.

The dam breach at Ia Krel 2 Hydropower Plant caused much damage to residents in Duc Co District in Gia Lai Province (Photo: SGGP)

In June 2011, the investor of the Dam Bol Hydropower Plant used plastic pipes to replace concrete drainage sewers in Bao Lam District in Lam Dong Province. The plastic pipes were improperly installed and therefore burst, killing two persons and destroying masses of property and vast areas of farm land.

In November of the following year, a truck carrying stones to the construction site of Dak Mek 3 Hydropower Plant collided into a concrete wall at the work’s spillway, causing a 60m long dam breach in Dak Glei District of Kon Tum Province.

Hundreds of cubic meters of soil and stone debris fell down to claim the life of a 29-year-old driver named Nguyen Viet Hung.

Authorized organs in the province then investigated and uncovered that Hong Phat-Dak Mek Hydropower Company, investor of the plant, did not follow the initial design to construct the dam and hence compromised the quality.

In May this year, another incident occurred in Ea Sup 3 Hydropower Plant area in Dak Lak Province.

The 6.4 MW plant was on a test operation at the time when a 50m section of the pressure reservoir suddenly collapsed. Fortunately, no human loss was reported.

In addition, the 2.1km drainage canal above the pressure reservoir is leaking water now and pieces of concrete have peeled off.

The latest accident was at Ia Krel 2 Hydropower Plant in Duc Co District of Gia Lai Province on June 12.

The dam breach unleashed thousands of cubic meters of soil and more than five million cubic meters of water downstream, destroying nearly 200 hectares of plants and vegetables of local people in Ia Dom Commune.

Several people had to run up hills or climb trees to wait for rescue workers. Food, property and farm crops of local ethic groups were swept away, leaving them in dire need of food supplies.

Lax Management

These incidents at the smaller hydropower plants in the Central Highlands have showed lax management of local authorities.

The Dak Mek 3 incident occurred on November 22 but the provincial People’s Committee, the Department of Industry and Trade and the Department of Construction learnt about it one week later.

The site of the dam burst at Dak Mek 3 Hydropower Plant in Kon Tum Province (Photo: SGGP)

At that time, authorized organs uncovered that Hong Phat-Dak Mek Company counterfeited the stamp and the supervisory team indulged in several violations.

Similarly, the director of the Department of Construction only visited the site of the accident at the Ia Krel 2 Hydropower Plant in Gia Lai Province for the first time after the dam breach occurred.

Authorized organs, including the Department of Industry and Trade were also unable to supply information about design, execution, and supervisory work at the plant on being asked.

Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai has instructed Gia Lai Province to clarify the reasons for the dam breach as well as hold responsible related organizations and individuals.

The State Agency for Construction Quality Investigation (SACQI) has ordered the investor to set up boards to notify local residents and supervise the dam breach site.

They should hire a consultancy unit to determine the status quo and quality of the remaining part of the dam.

Dak Lak Province has recently set up an inspectorate to examine Hydropower Projects in the province. They have uncovered at least six reservoirs that do not meet safety requirements.

According to the Central Highland Steering Committee, the region has 287 Hydropower Projects with total capacity of 7,000MW. Of these, 163 have been built over 65,240 hectares of land including 16,600 hectares of forest land. These works also affect 25,269 households.

A MW of electricity occupies 10.53 hectare of land and requires another 10.3 hectare for resettlement in the Central Highlands.

By staff writers – Translated by Hai Mien

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