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Ministerial support for Son La

A 3.6GW hydro power project on the Da (Black) river near Son La in northwestern Vietnam received important support in late January 2001. Prime Minister Phan Van Khai was quoted in the communist party newspaper The People as saying Son La carried a ‘very important meaning’ for the country. ‘The intention to build this project is correct,’ the newspaper reported Khai as saying. ‘We should not delay it.’ Son La will be located some 200km west of Hanoi and roughly 150km upstream of the 1920MW Hoa Binh hydro plant which is currently Vietnam’s largest hydro station. Son La will consist of 12 x 300MW generating units. The project has been studied for several years and is in the national power development plan for commissioning between 2007-12. It will play a major role in meeting Vietnam’s soaring power demand, which is expected to triple to around 75B kWh by 2012.

A feasibility study completed in 2000 appeared to cast gloom over plans for the project. It was stated that the Son La reservoir would require the resettlement of about 100,000 people, mainly from ethnic minorities. Until the Prime Minister offered his support for the construction of the project, this prospect was assumed to have made the project untenable.