The Vu Gia–Thu Bon river basin, the country’s fourth largest producer of hydropower, is facing a number of environmental issues that pose a risk to major hydropower expansion plans.

The basin stretches from the eastern part of the Truong Son trail to the coastal area around Da Nang and the central province of Quang Nam, supplying water for more than 45,000ha of farmland and close to 2 million residents.

Four major hydropower plants and 820 irrigational facilities, including 72 reservoirs, 546 dams and 202 pumping stations, have been built in the Vu Gia – Thu Bon river basin so far. By 2020, 10 hydropower plants to generate 1,200MW of electricity are planned to be built in the basin, experts from the Vietnam National University in Hanoi told a recent consultation workshop in the central city of Da Nang.

However, the basin itself and the Quang Nam-Da Nang coastal area are affected by overpopulation and rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, which have resulted in environmental pollution and ecosystem degradation.

Climate change impacts, such as draughts and floods, as well as deforestation and illegal mineral and sand mining have altered the flow of the river, posing a risk of salt-water intrusion that could harm local livelihoods, they warned.

Dao Trong Tu, Director of the Consulting Centre for Sustainable Development of Water Resources and Climate Change Adaptation, called for a delay in the construction of new hydropower plants to conduct more feasibility studies.

He suggested devising post-resettlement support policies and a comprehensive master plan for the basin.
The workshop was co-hosted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Hanns Seidel Stiftung, a German political foundation, as part of the Mangroves for the Future initiative.-VNA