Power plants add to flood woes

Scientists are concerned about the negative impact of hydro-power plants on people’s lives in areas hit by extreme weather, while rivers in the South become critically polluted by industrial waste.

Viet Nam River Network (VRN), a local non-governmental organization, affirmed at its annual conference held recently that power plants in the Central region had changed the natural flows in rivers and created shortages of water during the dry season.

Studies by scientists working for the network have shown that discharges by the plants’ reservoirs have worsened flood situations, which occur annually in the region. Floods in recent years have had much stronger currents and they inundated lowland areas more quickly than ever before.

Local residents in the areas where power plants are located also blamed the reservoirs for waters that flooded their fields and removed top soil.

Le Thi Thu Suu, VRN’s chief coordinator, said climate change impacts had created extreme weather phenomena, including higher rainfalls during rainy seasons and critical shortages of water in dry months.

“Power plant reservoirs increase the negative impacts and influence residents, as they hold back water during the dry season, worsening the shortage of water for cultivation and waterway traffic.

“Meanwhile, the reservoirs create large floods when they discharge water in the rainy seasons when lowland areas are flooded with water from high rainfalls. This affects crops and claims lives, as well as floods the properties of local residents,” Suu said, adding that she had evidence collected by local residents in Quang Nam Province.

In Thua Thien Hue Province, local officials admitted, at a meeting of the People’s Council, that the province lost 1,000 ha of forest because of power reservoirs built in the area.

Meanwhile, historic floods in central Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh provinces raised alarms about the management of water discharges at power reservoirs.

In the South, water in the Sai Gon - Dong Nai river basin has been heavily polluted, at a time that industrial parks release wastewater into the rivers, and the flow of water has been changed in both quantity and quality because of more than 12 power plants in their upper section.

“The natural flow of the rivers could help in the lower parts of the Sai Gon - Dong Nai river system, but are being polluted by waste water from industrial parks located at its basin,” said Assoc. Prof. Le Anh Tuan of Can Tho University, who is also a counselor to VRN.

“But reservoirs from the operating power plant on the river system have taken a lot of water and caused changes in the water flow, worsening the pollution,” he said.

Those in the network are working hard to urge the further reduction of power plants on the river system. Earlier this year, the network contributed to the lobbying to prevent the building of two proposed power plants of 6 and 6A, that were to be built in the Cat Tien National Park.

However, scientists in the network also want a clearer mechanism to share water resources between the upper power plants with the lower parts of the rivers where more water is used in agriculture, aquaculture and for reducing pollution levels.

The network recommended more involvement by residents regarding the impact of power plants and emphasized the education of different levels of authorities about sharing water resources, as well as the benefits of well-protected rivers.

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