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VietNamNet Bridge reports on the environmental consequences of a rapid build-up.
[Editor's note: The following story comes from our editorial partner VietNamNet Bridge.]
VietNamNet Bridge — In the central Vietnam, about 200 hydro-power projects have been built, are being built or are on the drawing boards. With Vietnam facing chronic shortages of power in the summer months, electricity generation has become a hot product — so profitable that little attention has been given to environmental consequences.
The Zahung dam on Zahung river, built to serve the 30 MW Zahung hydro-power plant.
Many companies, including some with no experience at all in power projects, have jumped into the hydropower business. Hardly a river in the central region of Vietnam has escaped the attention of electricity investors. Quang Nam province has many such projects.
The Vu Gia and Thu Bon, Quang Nam’s principal rivers, arise in the Truong Son mountains. These rivers run through many gorges. They are the sources of water for villages of ethnic minority peoples. In recent years, these sources of life have been wasting away in the face of the storm called “hydro power.”
The Kon, which passes Zo Ngay and Song Kon communes in Quang Nam province, is one of these rivers. A dam of more than 160 feet high barricades its channel, diverting the river’s flow to one side. Behind the dam, the river bed is exposed. On the river face, the last stage of the Song Kon 2 hydro-power project is nearly finished. It will begin to generate power in early July.
The initial design of the project was for a single dam. The investor, however, discovered that the water capacity is still big enough after it is regulated by the dam to power an additional 3 megawatt (MW) turbine there. Nearly 2 miles from the major dam is a smaller dam of 120 feet high.
Geruco – Kon River 2 Hydro-power Joint stock Company’s planning director Tran Quang Hoa says that the principal dam can impound 29 million cubic meters of water while the smaller one can hold another 1.2 million cubic meters. With the two dams, the Song Kon 2 power plant can generate 63 megawatts (MW) of electricity continuously.
About 20 miles from Kon river, another huge dam has been built on Zahung river, impounding its waters during construction of the 30 MW Zatung hydropower plant. Downstream from the dam, the Zahung is now just a shadow of the former river.
“Since the day this power plant was built, fish and shrimp have disappeared. Perhaps I’ll have to quit this work,” said Alang Be, a Zahung village resident who has worked as a fisherman on the river for several decades.
About five miles farther downstream, the Zahung river becomes the A Vuong river. It is once again blocked by a dam, this time impounding water for the A Vuong hydro-power plant. A year ago, the reservoir of A Vuong power plant was full of water, surrounded by green pine trees. Now, however, when the plant is trying to satisfy peak demand, the reservoir is mostly dry to its bed. Trees around the reservoir have died.