Central hydropower plants worsen floods: experts

Numerous hydroelectric plants built in the central and Central Highlands regions have made floods in the storm-hit area more serious, experts say.

Hydropower plants are being built consecutively along the upper reaches of the Kone River in Vinh Thanh District, central Binh Dinh Province. (Photo: SGGP)

Along the upper reaches of Binh Dinh Province’s Kone River, five hydropower plants have been built in Vinh Thanh District alone. The district has the largest number of such projects in the country.
Quang Nam Province, meanwhile, has approved a total of 58 hydropower projects. Of this number, the Ministry of Industry and Trade has approved building 10 plants on the Vu Gia-Thu Bon rivers with a capacity of 1,094MW.

Two of the 10 have been completed and come into operation, two others are being built, and six are expected to begin construction in the next few months.

The remaining 48 are small and medium projects approved by the provincial People’s Committee with an expected capacity of 507MW.

Four of these plants are now online, seven are under construction, and 12 will be built in December and in the first quarter next year.

Before building hydroelectric plants, companies are legally obligated to provide environmental-impact reports to authorities, but experts say that companies often underreport the damage the projects will cause.

In theory, large-capacity plants should have the ability to reduce floods during the rainy season and provide water in the dry season for lowland areas.

But so far, the central region’s plants have not helped curb flooding or droughts and in some cases they have even exacerbated the problem.

The Binh Dien Hydropower Plant in Thua Thien-Hue Province. Instead of helping curb flooding in the region, experts say the plants often exacerbate the problem. (Photo: SGGP)

On September 29, the A Vuong Hydro Power Plant released water to protect its reservoir. But meanwhile, the lowlands of Vu Gia and Thu Bon rivers were already experiencing alarming level-3 floods.

Combined with floods caused by natural disasters, it was some of the worst flooding the region has seen in the last century and caused long-lasting devastation.

Le Tri Tap, former chairman of the Quang Nam Province People’s Committee, said that A Vuong focused only on the safety of its own plant while inundating the vulnerable lowlands with 140 million cubic meters of water.

During historic floods in 1999, Quang Nam Province’s Phu Ninh Lake, the largest irrigation work in the central region with a capacity of 400 million cubic meters of water, was also in danger of breaking.

Ministries and departments proposed that water be released from the lake.

Chairman Tap, however, decided to consolidate the dam’s edges and said it should only be broken if heavy rain continued.

Ultimately, the rain abated, and water was not released. According to Mr. Tap, if the water had been released, hundreds of thousands of residents would have faced a desperate emergency.

The most worrying problem now is what will happen if the 58 plants in Quang Nam, 113 in Gia Lai Province and tens in Binh Dinh and Phu Yen provinces one day release water like the A Vuong plant did.

Related articles:
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Lack of rescue resources plagues storm-struck VN

By staff writers – Translated by Hai Mien

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