Although Vietnam generates nearly 40% of its power from about 7,000 hydropower facilities, investors developing new hydroelectric projects in the country face increasing oversight. Citing mismanagement and illegal land acquisitions, Vietnam’s Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Cao Duc Phat, said the government might assess penalties that include potentially revoking investor licenses for particular projects.
Reports published in 2014 said reasons for cancelling developments include, but are not limited to: licensees missing planned deadlines, breaches of land management protocols, failing to produce detailed maps for the allocation of public land and unauthorized purchase of land held by ethnic minority communities.
At issue is deforestation, failure to meet afforestation agreements for the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) and violating the terms of site agreements. GMS consists of six countries, one of which is Vietnam and Guangxi province in China.
In a report published by The Diplomat, Phat said, “I recommend that we revoke the license of any projects which continually delays the restoration and compensation process.”
According to the Asia Pacific Forestry Commission, a 2013 study by the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) indicates improper planning and safeguards have damaged ecosystems in GMS, saying the “exploitation has increased rapidly in the past two decades and shows little sign of slowing.”
The Central Highlands Region Steering Committee of Vietnam agreed with WWF’s findings.
The Central Highlands has the largest number of hydropower plants approved for construction in the country – 485 – with a potential for a total installed capacity of nearly 10,000 MW. To date, 118 have been built and 75 are under construction.
In February 2014, the committee terminated 167 hydroelectric projects in Central Highland provinces and neighboring localities, which have a combined total installed capacity of 617.36 MW.
Of the 167 projects, 117 are from the Central Highlands and they have a combined installed capacity of 337.16 MW. The remaining 50 projects are from neighboring municipalities and their combined total capacity is 280.2 MW, according to published reports.
Lam Dong province cancelled 40 projects, the largest amount, followed by Kon Tum province, which cancelled 34 projects.
The committee said 25 developers of large projects, including some being built, had acquired more than 168,513 acres of land and affected the lives of more than 25,700 people, displacing nearly 7,000.
Phat added that he is seeking the support of additional ministry officials to present a unified front in mandating project owners comply with regulatory guidelines.