Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Environmental impact of hydropower plants in Vietnam

Dong Nai river is one of the most important rivers in Vietnam and its basin is home to 20 hydro-power projects, 15 of them being operational and the remaining five being under construction. While there is no doubt that hydro can provide reliable source of clean energy to the country there have been also reports about the negative environmental impacts connected with these hydro projects.

Nguyen Van Thanh from the Ministry of Industry and Trade has recently presented the report "Hydro-power Projects on the Dong Nai River Basin and Measures to Minimise Their Impacts on the Water Environment of the River” where he is discussing the environmental effects connected with these hydro projects.

Thanh states that projects located on the upper sections of the regional rivers have negative impacts to the water environment and are also responsible for flooding the lower section.

The latest hydro projects on Dang Nai river were connected with various negative environmental reports, for instance in September 2013 it was reported that the two hydro-power projects under construction would cause significant damage to nearby ecosystems by removing 372.23ha of forests, 128.37ha of which refers to land in Cat Loc, a core zone under Cat Tien National Park. 

There are also fears that these two projects could cause major damage to local residents who earn their living from farming, aquaculture and fisheries on the lower sections, and could additionally diminish chances for Nam Cat Tien National Park’s to obtain World Heritage status. 

There is no such thing as 100% environmentally friendly energy source, and hydro is no exception. What developers should be doing in each case is taking the measures to minimize the environmental impact of new hydropower plants as much as possible, sometimes even regardless of short-term feasibility.