Poor designs for hydropower plants endanger lives
  • By P. Thao | | June 01, 2013 02:04 PM
 >>  Quakes at Song Tranh pose danger to people's lives

A report from the NA’s Committee on Technology, Science and Environment showed that hydropower investors have been ignoring safety and environmental factors involved in their projects, posing a number of dangers.


 Song Tranh 2 Hydropower Plant vulnerable to recurring earthquakes

The report also showed a number of shortcomings in the planning of medium and small-sized hydropower projects. 70% of total capacity came from 113 large-scale hydropower projects. The remaining 1,108 medium and small-sized projects only accounted for 30%, and 40% of these must be scrapped because of lack of investment or low efficiency.

However, the Ministry of Industry and Trade still said that huge power projects with over 50MW generation capacity are owned by the EVN and they did a good jobs on designing, selecting technology as well as human resources.

In reality, at many power plants, such as Ban Ve, Se San 4 and Song Tranh 2, many water leaks have been reported. Song Tranh 2 also was left vulnerable to damage from earthquakes as a result of ill-conceived water storage systems.

It has been reported that awareness of safety requirements for construction and maintenance at medium and small-sized plants remains low.

According to the committee, Vietnam only implemented regulations for hydropower dam inspections in 2007, and there are few agencies capable of carrying out the job. Inspection can take anywhere between five and six months while the penalties for violators are relatively weak.

Some plants do not even have monitoring systems and even some of those that have them do not have the expertise to adequately function them, Huong Son, Song Tranh 2 or Hua Na being among such facilities.

In addition, one of the most pressing problems is the lack planning for disaster prevention, such as floods and dam breaks and the large scale discharges implicated with them.

The report highlighted the general lack of concern for environmental impacts. "The plans often emphasise economic outcomes and do not pay enough attention to environmental and safety issues. The hydropower projects would pose real and serious threats to those who live downstream from these facilities," the report said.

Several power plants have already shown their capability of causing adverse effects on the lives of surrounding residents, including decreased water flow and causing harm to the fertility of agricultural land. The committee proposed to the Ministry of Industry and Trade to put an end to all projects that do not meet safety and environmental standards.

According to the ministry, 338 power projects have been rejected in the planning phase. Currently, Vietnam has about 899 power projects, of which 260 are in operation and 266 are under review. 

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