Vietnam admits dam resettlement programmes inadequate

Vietnam admits dam resettlement programmes inadequateHanoi - Vietnam's efforts to resettle villagers displaced by the massive Son La hydroelectric project have been slow and inadequate, government officials said Thursday.

Most of the villagers displaced by the dam in the mountainous northern province of Son La belong to ethnic minorities. National Assembly member Ksor Phuoc, an ethnic Jarai who heads the assembly's Committee on Nationalities and its Group for Resettlement and Supervision of the Son La Hydroelectric Plant, said those resettled felt insecure in their new homes.

In some resettlement areas, Phuoc said, displaced villagers have already arrived, but roads, power lines, and schools have yet to be built.

"In those places, children have to travel to schools far from their new homes," Phuoc said.

Phuoc's comments echoed a report delivered Tuesday to Vietnam's National Assembly Standing Committee on the resettlement of people displaced by the dam.

The report said the process is behind schedule and likely to cause resentment among those resettled.

Authorities have so far moved 62 per cent of the 91,000 people who will be displaced by the dam's holding reservoir. Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai said Wednesday that resettlement had been held up by delays in awarding compensation to displaced households.

The government granted each displaced household between 50 million and 70 million Vietnamese dong (2,800 to 4,000 dollars) to build a new house. But Phuoc said the actual cost of the new houses was between 200 million and 300 million dong (11,500 to 17,000 dollars).

Phuoc said hundreds of households were still unsure how to earn a livelihood, two years after being resettled in their new locations.

Nguyen Thai Hung, Deputy Head of the Management Board for Displacement and Resettlement in the Muong Lay district of Son La province, said that besides infrastructure, the resettlement areas lacked good farmland.

"The fertile land is already allocated to local people before the displaced arrive," Hung said. "Authorities can only allocate land in mountainous areas which are very difficult to farm."

Hung said most of the resettled were used to growing lowland wet rice, and had to learn new methods for growing upland dry rice. He said they had received little help from agricultural experts in learning how to work the land they had been granted.

The Son La Dam is the largest ever built in Vietnam, with a capacity of 2,400 megawatts and an estimated cost of 2.5 billion dollars. It is scheduled for completion in 2015.

The dam has been controversial since it was first proposed, partly because of the resettlement issue and partly due to environmental concerns. The province of Son La is prone to earthquakes, and if the dam fails, it could flood the city of Hanoi.(dpa)