Hydropower 2012: Gray Picture

VietNamNet Bridge – The earthquakes in Song Tranh 2 hydropower area, the collapse of the bank of Dak Mek 3 dam or the dam of Dakrong 3 hydropower plant bursting after rains, as well as the effort to conceal information of the people involved have made the public extremely upset about the hydropower sector in 2012.

Consecutive earthquakes in the region of Song Tranh 2 hydropower plant

Vietnam, hydropower, dam, incidents
Bac Tra My’s people panic because of the earthquake. (Photo: Tuoi Tre)

Consecutive earthquakes occurred in the Song Tranh 2 hydropower plant area with increasing intensity and frequency was the center of the press in 2012.

As reported by the People’s Committee of Bac Tra My district, Quang Nam province, the home to the power plant, from September 3 to the end of 2012, nearly 80 earthquakes occurred in this district, including four quakes with magnitude of 4.2-4.7 on the Richter scale.

Many scientists and experts visited the district to do research but they could not reassure the local people when their homes and their property were damaged by consecutive earthquakes. Many farmers had to “live in fear,” even went away from home to avoid quakes.

However, speaking to the press on the sideline of the National Assembly session on October 30, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai said that the earthquake was already confirmed as stimulated quakes and the safety assessment results showed that Song Tranh 2 plant is safe.

Tipper truck knocked down hydropower dam

Vietnam, hydropower, dam, incidents

The collapse of the bank of the dam of Dak Mek 3 hydropower plant in Dak Choong commune, Dak Glei district, Kon Tum province, is said to be the most special incident ever when 60m out of a hydropower dam of 80m long, 20m high fell down due to a tipper truck.

This work started in March 2009 and is scheduled to generate power in 2013, with a capacity of 7.5 MW and more than VND200 billion ($20 million) of investment capital.

On November 22, a concrete wall of the dam suddenly collapsed. The incident killed driver Nguyen Viet Hung, 28 immediately.

After the accident, the investor insisted that “the construction of the dam ensures the quality and design,” but more than 60m of the dam was completely broken just because of the hit from a tipper truck. Notably, the investor did not report the incident to the relevant authorities.

After the incident, the consulting firm held a field survey and concluded that the cause of the incident is the work was built differently from the design.

Dakrong 3 hydroelectric dam burst

Vietnam, hydropower, dam, incidents
Photo: Thanh Nien

In 2012, there was another sad story relating to the hydropower industry; the dam of Dakrong 3 plant was broken on October 7.

However, the investor owner deliberately concealed information. Besides, many days after the incident, the problem was not handled and the people did not receive any compensation for their damage.

This work was kicked off by Tan Hoan Cau Company in August 2010, with a total investment of over VND210 billion ($10 million). It completed water storage on 18/09/2012 and generated power on 5/10 2012.

However, after a moderate rainfall, the dam was broken for almost 30 meters long, making strong water flow downstream, causing erosion to some other items.

The damage is estimated to be up to VND20 billion ($1 million). The incident washed away tens of tons of cassava of households in the two communes of Ta Long and Dakrong.

Drought caused by hydropower

Vietnam, hydropower, dam, incidents
For more than three years, the people living in the downstream area of the Vu Gia – Thu Bon River have faced drought in the dry season.

Hydropower has outstanding advantages but also has fatal defects. Besides its undeniable benefits, hydropower also breaks the balance of the ecosystem in both upstream and downstream areas of the dam.

Song Tranh 2 is the most specific example. After the dam leaked, over 70 quakes occurred in the region, making people panic.

In a photo essay on 5/1/2012, VietNamNet also mentioned the impacts of the 5 hydropower projects which are being implemented in the key tourist areas of Sa Pa, Lao Cai on the landscape, the environment and the people living here.

The article on Quang Nam’s hydropower projects published on VietNamNet on October 3 also caused public concern.

Accordingly, the designed capacity of reservoirs of the overall 10 hydropower projects on the upstream of Vu Gia-Thu Bon River is 1.070 billion m3, which is sufficient for flood prevention.

But in fact, the total capacity is much less than the design figures, so these reservoirs could not help prevent flooding. It is extremely dangerous if the weather changes extremely.

Debate on the Dong Nai 6 and 6A hydropower projects

An issue that was also very “hot” in 2012 is the Dong Nai 6 and 6A hydropower projects. They are the two projects of the Duc Long Gia Lai Group, located in the three provinces of Lam Dong, Dak Nong and Binh Phuoc.

In the national electricity development plan for 2011-2020, Dong Nai 6 is scheduled to be put into operation in 2015 and Dong Nai 6A in 2016.

However, after over six years of preparation, experts have not reached a consensus on the environmental impacts of these projects. Many scientists said that the projects have huge environmental impacts on the Cat Tien National Park.

In this regard, on November 8, Duc Long Gia Lai Group held a press conference in Hanoi, where Mr. Bui Phap, Chairman of Duc Long Gia Lai Group, said: “If these projects are problematic, it is the Prime Minister’s decision to stop it or not. If the Prime Minister tells us to stop, we will stop.”

L.Lan

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