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Vietnam presses ahead with Son La project

VIETNAMESE DEPUTY PRIME Minister Nguyen Con Tan has instructed the Lai Chau Provincial People’s Committee to immediately establish an ad hoc resettlement steering committee. This is required to implement a pilot project to resettle 200 households in the province’s Si Pa Phin district.

Much of the district will be submerged by the reservoir of the 3600MW Son La hydro power project whose construction is scheduled to begin in 2004. The Si Pa Phin exercise would then be replicated throughout the province for completion by 2005.

Speaking on 21 August 2001, Tan said US$660M has been budgeted to resettle 43,800 people should a 265m high dam be built. This would submerge 19,000ha including one township, five districts and 167km of inter-provincial and national highway. If a 215m high dam is selected, 23,200 people will have to move.

Tan emphasised that local authorities need quickly to plan the new resettlement areas to ensure better accommodation, production conditions and infrastructure for the displaced than they have at present. He mentioned agro-industrial projects such as forestry for papermaking, tea plantations, sugarcane and dairy farms as possible substitute activities.

Son La’s 12x300MW turbines will be commissioned between 2012 and 2016.

In other developments, the Vietnamese government has also approved plans for the 273MW Se San 3 project in the Central Highlands. Expected to cost US$266M, it would help to develop the restive area that has recently witnessed severe ethnic disturbance. Work is scheduled to begin next year for commissioning in 2006. This is four years behind the project’s earlier planned 2002 commissioning.