Vietnam needs to promote alternative energy: expert

The Xe Pian – Xe Namnoy hydropower dam in southern Laos collapsed on July 23, causing severe damage to the surrounding area. The Saigon Times spoke to Dr. Dao Trong Tu, director of the Center for Sustainable Development of Water Resources and Climate Change Adaptation, about hydropower dam safety in Vietnam. 


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Dr. Dao Trong Tu, director of the Center for Sustainable Development of Water Resources and Climate Change Adaptation



Please provide some insights into hydropower dams and irrigation works in the Mekong River in Vietnam.

- The Mekong River, which runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, has high potential for hydropower generation. The countries in the river basin have constructed and are planning hundreds of hydropower dams in the mainstream and tributaries of the river.

There are plenty of reservoirs, with capacities ranging from one billion cubic meters to dozens of billions of cubic meters. For instance, China has planned 15 large hydropower projects in the Lancang River (the upper half of the Mekong River) by 2030, which are expected to have a combined capacity of 52.8 billion cubic meters. Laos currently has three reservoirs, with capacities of more than one billion cubic meters, including Xe Pian – Xe Namnoy.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam has as many as 6,648 irrigation and hydropower reservoirs both within and outside the Mekong River basin. Of these, nearly 20 reservoirs have a capacity of more than one billion cubic meters. However, up to 1,200 reservoirs, mainly smaller ones, have deteriorated.

What lessons can Vietnam learn from the Xe Pian – Xe Namnoy dam burst?

- Xe Pian – Xe Namnoy is a new project. It was constructed and supervised by South Korean and Thai companies and funded by Australia and New Zealand. We have technical standards and regulations in place to ensure the safety of irrigation and hydropower dams and reservoirs, but warnings are nonetheless necessary.

Irrigation and hydropower dams and reservoirs need to be supervised closely and continuously to avoid unwanted incidents. When potential incidents unfold but cannot be dealt with, the dam operators should be allowed to send timely warnings to areas downstream for evacuation.

Although it is important to have a contingency plan in place for areas downstream to deal with a dam collapse, in reality, we have not witnessed enough of these incidents to actually test the contingency plans.

What possible scenarios of dam collapse is Vietnam prepared for?

- According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, reservoirs have preventive scenarios, but they are incomplete. These include reservoirs with dams more than 15 meters high, with a capacity of over three million cubic meters, and 100% registration for dam safety. At least 35.2% of the dams have a reservoir operation process in place, 80% have dam monitoring mechanisms, 48% have safety testing and 100% have prepared plans for protection.

This is the rainy season and thousands of irrigation and hydropower reservoirs are being operated for various purposes. However, the Vietnamese people do not feel safe when it comes to dam operation in the country.

What needs to be done in the long run to avoid constructing massive hydropower projects?

- The building of hydropower plants in the past 20 years, especially those having a capacity of more than 100MW, has exploited almost the full hydropower potential of the country (more than 85%). As a result, we have very few locations left for large hydropower projects. However, there is still room for small projects, and private investors have been permitted to develop them.

This investment channel appears to be appealing, though it has been restricted to protect the environment and the ecology of the rivers. The 13th National Assembly issued Resolution 62/2013/QH13 enhancing the management of planning, investments and operations of hydropower projects. Following the resolution, the Government crossed off 424 projects from the planning process, suspended 136 others, excluded 172 potential project locations from the plan and reviewed and assessed 158 projects.

Regarding alternative sources of energy to limit investments in hydropower projects, there has been positive information on the feasibility of development of renewable energy, such as wind energy, solar energy, sea waves, geothermal energy and biomass.

I think Vietnam is making progress in its plan to utilize alternative sources of energy in the coming decades. The country should promote the strategy further.

SGT

Vietnam needs to promote alternative energy: expert, IT news, sci-tech news, vietnamnet bridge, english news, Vietnam news, news Vietnam, vietnamnet news, Vietnam net news, Vietnam latest news, Vietnam breaking news, vn news
 
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