A proposed multibillion-dollar project to be implemented on the Hong (Red), a river crucial to the eco-social development of northern Vietnam that runs through nearly ten provinces, is also meant to connect local water transportation routes with China, fueling concerns over its feasibility and environmental impacts.
Xuan Thien Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Vietnam’s Thai Group, wants to open a water route and build as many as six hydropower plants on the river through a US$1.1 billion project.
According to a detailed proposition obtained by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, the developer plans to connect the would-be water route on the Hong River with that of China allowing ships to travel along the river from China to Hanoi and other provinces and ports in northern Vietnam.
The 556-km Red River, earning the name from its heavily silt-laden, reddish-brown water, flows through eight northern Vietnamese localities including Yen Bai, Phu Tho, Hanoi, Vinh Phuc, Hung Yen, Ha Nam, Thai Binh and Nam Dinh.
The river and its numerous tributaries spread out to form the Red River Delta, which flows past the Vietnamese capital before emptying into the Gulf of Tonkin. The delta encompasses a major agricultural area in Vietnam heavily devoted to rice production and is also known for its violent floods and seasonal fluctuations in volume.
The proposal calls for the construction of six dams and docks along the river in order to increase water levels to suit major vessels and six hydropower plants to be set up at each of the dams. Xuan Thien’s proposed timeline for completion of the entire project is six years.
The project has been endorsed by the Ministry of Planning and Investment which recently submitted the proposal to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc for consideration.
‘Just an idea’
Shortly after the proposition was made public, experts began voicing concern over the potential negative environmental impacts that the project may have on the Hong River and nearby areas.
Building dams and increasing water levels on the river will affect the lives of millions of people living along the waterway, as well as the delta’s delicate ecosystem, considered the grainery of northern Vietnam.
A vegetable farm is pictured along the Hong River in Phu Tho Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Tuoi Tre brought those concerns to a regular government meeting in Hanoi on Thursday, during which an official from the Ministry of Planning and Investment admitted that it is inevitable that the project will affect the environment.
“It will certainly have environmental effects, but the actual scale of those impacts can only be determined once official environmental assessments are conducted,” said Nguyen Xuan Tu, head of the agency in charge of inspecting and supervising investment with the ministry.
Tu said the proposed project is “only in its initial stage,” adding that for now, “it is just an idea.”
The investment ministry has consulted relevant ministries and agencies and has received positive feedback, according to the official.
“By submitting the proposition to the prime minister, we only want to seek an in-principle approval to continue evaluating the project and begin to look ahead toward the next steps,” he asserted.