The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog


Gains & Losses of Hydropower Development for Resettled Communities

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on June 13, 2014

Hydropower development is a major part of Vietnam’s economic development strategy. To date, Vietnam has built approximately 450 hydropower plants dams out of which 268 are already in operation. 40 percent of these hydropower plants are allocated in the central and highland regions of the country.

That said however, there are potentially adverse socio-economic implications from these hydropower projects. According to the Quang Nam Provincial People’s Committee office’s planning report in central Vietnam, 42 hydropower projects have been approved. This translates into possibly affecting over 37000 people, inundating 20,000ha of land including forests, agricultural land and urban areas.

In terms of displaced communities, the building of Song Tranh II hydropower with capacity 125 MW in Quang Nam province affected 4 communes comprising of 9500 persons from 834 households, out of which 4,369 persons were resettled. Tra Bui is the most affected commune with 353 resettled households with 1,706 persons. Resettlement brings its own set of challenges in the form of limited access to natural resources. First, there is limited availability of land for cultivation. The average land area decreases from 1.5ha/household to 0,1ha/ household. Land in these resettlement areas are also often of bad quality and on high slopes, therefore unable to be used for cultivation. Second, water access is limited if not scarce. Without small lakes or natural irrigation in the resettled area, water for daily activities as well as cultivation must come from the mountain creek. In the dry season, water becomes more and more scarce. The third challenge from resettlement is the loss of forest land. Song Tranh II hydropower construction has resulted in a loss of about 1200ha of forest land including planted and natural forest areas, which would be viable sources of livelihood (through timber and non-timber products) for communities had they not resettled.

As such, the diversity of income activities is lesser than before resettlement. Most households often gain income from cultivation, forest products, husbandry and paid employment when living in their original communes. However, with resettlement, they only have one income activity, which is temporary employment. This has subsequently let to decline in the average working day number per labor per year from 200.5 days to 120days, and a rise in unemployment rates from 20% to 60%, especially amongst women.  As the result, average income per person per year falls from 4.2 million VND before resettlement to 2.67 million VND at present and the poor rate increase 50 % to 87 %.

Food insecurity, increasing gender injustice and natural disasters are also vulnerabilities faced in resettled communes. The rate of malnourished children is 20%, 85% of household are ill-nourished from 2-3 months. Feedback from women’s group discussions demonstrated a sense of worry and insecurity as they are dependent on their male family members who work. Since2012, earthquake occurs continuously and irregularly, the highest intensive is 4.7 richer leading to 80 percent of house was cracked and inclined.

To sum up, natural resources access and diversity of livelihoods of resettled people are limited and unstable, thus raising the level of vulnerability. To enhance quality of people’ living, two projects are development cage fishing model and livelihood improving for resettlement area have been proposed. These projects are funded by Quang Nam Provincial People’s Committee, will bring to opportunities such as new jobs, increasing awareness and knowledge through technical training courses, supporting money, financial and food.

While this blog analyses only the impacts of hydropower projects on resettled commune, research under the ASEAN-Canada fellowship also includes downstream commune, which would thus provide a comprehensive account of the hydropower’s impacts on affected communes. Based on this comprehensive account, only then can conclusions and recommendations be made for sustainable development of hydropower.

This blog post has been written by Pham Thi Nhung. Nhung is a lecturer at the Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry , and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

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