Hydropower Projects Left Behind As Investors Flee

Many investors of small- and medium-sized hydropower projects in the central provinces have unexpectedly vanished, while their facilities remain unfinished, exposing the projects to harsh weather and forcing locals residing in the zoned land plots into a tough spot.

Located in the most remote mountainous area of Quang Nam’s Tay Giang District, the 30MW Tr’Hy hydropower plant was considered a project that would attract hugest investment in the province.

In 2007 the province licensed the Hanoi-based LED Company to begin work on the facility with a combined capital of VND600 billion (US$28.7 million).

The construction work brought a busy and exciting atmosphere to the neighborhood of the Tr’Hy forest, with bulldozers and hundreds of workers coming to clear the site.

It took less than a year for the investor to complete site clearance and compensation tasks, finish a 9km road connecting the plant with the local town, wire 19km of electrical lines, and even set up a new residential area to relocate the locals. All of the construction cost an initial sum of VND100 billion.

But the good news ended there. All work on the project suddenly ceased in December 2010, and the site has since witnessed the silent departure of workers and construction vehicles, while the 9km road is now only a series of concrete blocks severely deteriorated under harsh weather conditions.

“The ten-figure road now has a new duty: providing space for locals to graze their cows,” Clau Blau, a senior citizen, said ironically.

Quang Nam, unfortunately, is currently home to a number of other hydropower projects that had to stop construction since their investors have left. They include the Nuoc Che, Dak Mi 2, and Dak Mi 3 in Phuoc Son District.

Another reason investors have left their unfinished hydropower projects in Quang Tri and Thua Thien – Hue is a shortage of capital, creating headaches for both local residents and authorities.

Life affected

Many local farmers in Tr’Hy Commune, who had to relocate to give their land plots to the plant’s builders, now wish to return to start a new crop on the land currently left unused, said A Lang Hop, chairman of the commune’s People’s Committee.

“But they are hesitant for fear that the investor will suddenly return and revoke the land,” he said.

The new land plots for production in the relocation residence are not as rich as those given to the project, and farmers are experiencing a shortage in land for agricultural production, they said.

“The residents asked me whether the hydropower project will be continued or not, for them to return to their land, but I cannot answer as the investor always refuses to answer my phone calls,” lamented Bling Mia, chairman of Tay Giang’s People’s Committee.

Authorities take action

Many provinces, however, have enacted firm action against the sluggish hydropower plant investors in their localities.

Quang Ngai’s government has recently petitioned to remove six small- and medium-sized hydropower projects from the master plan, while Kon Tum authorities have revoked their policy of investing in eight similar projects.

Meanwhile, Quang Nam authorities released on Wednesday an ultimatum for the investors of the Tr’Hy, Dak Mi 2, and Dak Mi 3 projects, requesting them to file a report on the facilities progress by November 15.

“If they fail to report their future investment plans, we will call on the government to put a halt to the projects,” said Dinh Van Thu, deputy chairman of the province’s people’s committee.

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