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Is the ‘Red River’ dead in the water?

VRN said in a statement released on May 11 that the project proposed by Xuan Thien Co Ltd would leave huge negative consequences. With a capacity of just 228 MW, it would contribute less than 1% to the nation’s electricity output.
What is more, it is not included in a master zoning plan for socioeconomic development in the Red River Delta until 2020, so if the mega project gets the go-ahead, it would negatively affect the development plan of the entire region.
According to VRN, developing a cascade of small-scale hydropower dams on the Red River would bring low economic efficiency.
Furthermore, damming and river dredging would affect river flows, trigger landslides and reduce silt in downstream areas. They would affect irrigation systems in eight provinces in the Red River Delta as well.
If the project is implemented, it would hurt water supply for farming, exposing millions of residents to the risk of lacking water for agriculture, aquaculture and daily use. The project would hurt biodiversity in the region.
Regarding economic effects, Vietnamese enterprises are not necessary beneficiaries from the project, the organization added.
The project might help step up economic and trade cooperation between local provinces and neighboring countries. However, Chinese firms could take advantage of the project to boost sales in the Mekong Sub-region and Africa via the East Sea, the Gulf of Thailand and the Indian Ocean while shipping raw materials from Africa to China. As a result, Vietnamese logistics service providers would miss this business opportunity.
China is investing in a railroad linking Yunnan Province and Sihanoukville of Cambodia through some Lao provinces to serve the purpose. Chinese enterprises are seen the biggest beneficiaries of the project.
Last, it is risky to transfer river ownership to a private company. The build-own-operate (BOO) or build-operate-transfer (BOT) format of road projects cannot apply to waterway management. Road projects only serve transport but waterways are related to resource safety, biodiversity, natural disaster control and ecological balance.
Therefore, VRN proposed the Government kill the project from the beginning to avoid wasting resources for plan revisions.
Earlier, the Ministry of Planning and Investment sent the Government the project which is planned to be implemented under the build-own-operate (BOO) format at a total cost of VND24.5 trillion (US$1.1 billion).
According to an investment plan for the project of Xuan Thien Co Ltd, the project would build six dams and dredge 288 kilometers of the river running from Phu Tho to Lao Cai provinces.
Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung in a document sent to the ministries of planning-investment and transport on Monday said Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc had yet to consider the project as it does not meet the existing requirements and regulations.
The Prime Minister ordered the planning ministry to coordinate with other ministries and agencies to build a master zoning plan for the Red River in a way that ensures sustainable development for this vital river in the nation’s north.

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