August 18, 2019
Hundreds of residents in a largely Catholic district of central Vietnam’s Quang Binh province protested on Thursday to oppose the enlargement of a local dam, saying that an increase in the dam’s height will raise the risk of floods, Vietnamese sources said.
The Rao Nan Dam in Quang Binh’s Quang Trach district sits upstream from nine different communes to which it supplies water, and authorities have long planned an upgrade to provide greater capacity during the area’s dry season.
A proposed increase in the dam’s height of from three to four meters above its already 20-meter height will threaten the lives of communities downstream, though, one local priest told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
“If this project is constructed, I’m sure that all nine communities will be flooded when the dam discharges water,” Peter Tran Van Thanh, parish priest for the Tam Hoa parish, said. “People see the risk here, and so they have to protest.”
“Local authorities have handed out pledges that the dam will be safe, and have asked people to sign their agreement to allow the project to be built, but the people have disagreed and protested anyway,” he said.
Also speaking to RFA, Father Truong Van Vut said he had examined the planned construction and agreed the new dam will be dangerous.
“The dam is already 20 meters high, and now they will build it even higher to hold more water. This will endanger people’s lives,” he said, adding, “We live downstream from the sources for two rivers, and the flow of water will therefore be very strong.”
The project scheduled for completion in 2021 is opposed not only by the area’s Catholic parishioners but by many in the area with no religious belief living near the foot of the dam, Truong Van Vut said.
“The non-Catholics are very excited because they said they had protested the day before but did not have enough people to support them, and today there was a much larger crowd encouraging them to continue their fight,” he said.
Poor design and management of Vietnam’s power-generating dams have been blamed for flooding over two months in 2016 that killed dozens of people and caused millions of dollars in economic damage when unusually heavy rain pelted the country.
On Oct. 14, 2016, water discharged from the Ho Ho hydropower project in central Vietnam’s Ha Tinh province during a period of heavy rain flooded a large area downstream, submerging thousands of homes.