The National Assembly discusses forests, small hydroelectricity plants and floods
The first session of the National Assembly's discussion on the socio-economic situation that was broadcast live yesterday attracted the attention of voters and people nationwide.
In addition to the positive assessments about the effectiveness of the Government's administration when the economy is still growing positively, many people expressed concerns and worries about abnormal changes in climate and weather. Within a short period of time, floods caused a lot of pain and losses to people in Vietnam’s central regtion. The cause was attributed to the loss of natural forests and the boom in small hydropower plants.
Are landslides caused only by heavy rains?
Perhaps the great pain of the people in the central region made many National Assembly members upset and talk much about deforestation, a factor that is considered to be the direct cause of increasing the intensity of floods in October.
Living with storms, floods and droughts is the fate that people in Central Vietnam have to accept and find ways to adapt. Photo: Thanh Tung
As a coastal country, it is normal for Vietnam to face natural disasters every year. Living in a narrow strip of land in the central region with a lot of rain and severe heat, with the back leaning on the Truong Son range with high mountains and short rivers, local people have never can give themselves a day of peace in mind before the rage of heaven and earth. Living with storms, floods and droughts has been the fate that the local people from the moment of birth so they have to automatically accept and find ways to adapt.
However, it has never been that in just a few weeks, this land has had to continuously receive many storms, many floods, many terrible mountain landslides that killed so many people.
There have been many different interpretations from experts and those who are responsible for this situation. However, please do not be too simple to assume that landslides are caused by heavy rains. Please do not say that "landslides are hidden enemies" when that is something we can predict, even foresee.
No one denies that because of the heavy rain, the soil is hydrated, and landslides are easy to happen. But one thing to confirm is that human impact has also contributed to making these disasters come faster and fiercer.
If the natural forest is not destroyed for shifting cultivation, for planting paper material trees; if the natural forest is not destroyed by loggers; if the vegetation cover of the natural forest is not shaved; if people do not defy everything to destroy mountains to open roads, to bar rivers to build dams, to hang huge bags of water on people's heads, there would certainly not be many devastating floods and flash floods as have occurred in recent years.
Can't be subjective
The Ministry of Industry and Trade has been very cautious with hydropower construction. In 2017, the Ministry issued a directive document saying that it would not consider adding to the planning hydropower projects with a capacity of 3.0 MW or less.
In 2012-2019, the Ministry coordinated with provincial People's Committees to consider removing from the planning eight terraced hydropower projects, 471 small hydropower projects and 213 potential hydroelectric sites.
No one denies the achievement of afforestation with more than 14.6 million hectares of forested land, including nearly 10.3 million hectares of natural forest, over 4.3 million hectares of planted forest and the rate of forest coverage of about 42% that Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong compared with the world forest coverage rate of only 29%.
The National Assembly deputies, however, cannot be satisfied with the actual forest coverage. When the natural forest is empty and the planted forest having the harvesting cycle of only 5-7 years, with low protection value, the vegetation cover being almost nothing, up to 95% of the rainwater is flowing off the ground.
Therefore, we cannot be subjective, cannot be complacent with the achievements of afforestation and forget the care needed before licensing any project that could threaten the survival of the forest.
Facing differing opinions on small hydroelectric it plants, but not directly debating with Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh during the group discussion session on November 2, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha had to admit that human activities in the process of building roads, hydroelectricity, infrastructure, and other civil works, both planned and spontaneous, in many cases was one of the reasons causing landslides or aggravated damage.
He suggested having a closer assessment of the geology of each area when developing infrastructure for socio-economic development in order to be able to cope with and propose preventive solutions.
NA deputies Nguyen Thi Xuan (Dak Lak province) and Trieu Thi Thu Phuong (Bac Kan province) proposed linking energy security issues with the prevention and control of natural disasters, floods and storms to have more comprehensive solutions for the protection of primary, protective, watershed forests, dam safety, construction of small and medium hydropower plants, and infrastructure planning issues.
NA deputy Trieu Thi Thu Phuong (Bac Kan province).
In the current context, according to these NA deputies, there is no other way than to continue zoning off and protecting regenerating forests to retain water and to reduce the risk of floods and landslides. To do that, it is necessary to have an appropriate mechanism from the Government when integrating the issue of zoning and protection of forests with socio-economic development programs.
Care for the people with the mechanism and strictness of the law
No one denies the role of hydroelectricity in the economy, but people are worried about small hydroelectric it plants. Many NA deputies proposed that the Government, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, and local authorities urgently re-evaluate the investment in small and medium hydropower projects in provinces in the central region, the Central Highlands and the northern mountainous provinces and to remove small and medium hydropower projects from the power development plan until 2030.
NA deputy Nguyen Thi Xuan: Voters believe that the essence of building small hydropower plants is to legally exploit timber and resources.
Because “in fact, building small and medium hydroelectric plants does more harm than good. Rivers and streams dry up when hydropower dams store water and are flooded when these plants release water. Hydropower reservoirs have not brought into play the role of irrigation and water regulation for downstream basins, while natural resources are exploited by investors. Voters believe that the essence of building small hydropower plants is legal exploitation of timber and resources,” said NA deputy Nguyen Thi Xuan.
Those small hydropower plants in Rao Trang have not yet brought benefits for the people, but nearly 30 lives have been buried under the ground and rocks. What were the people who licensed these small hydroelectric plants thinking! Where were the investors of these hydroelectric plants when workers were buried, and rescue officers and soldiers sacrificed!
Since 2016, all small hydropower plant projects related to natural forest land have not been considered for approval, Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh said at a Government cabinet meeting this week
Natural disasters and floods have devastated central Vietnam at a record level. So far, 130 people have been reported dead, and 18 others are missing.