In rainy season, the water rises and inundates houses, sweeping crops away. In dry season, the drought chaps the fields. This is what happens with the people in the lower course of the rivers in Central Highlands, where hydropower plants are located.
Ba river is not only a part of the millions of local people’s cultural life for the last thousands of years, but also the livelihood for them, providing water to villages, residential quarters in the southeast of Gia Lai and Phu yen provinces. The river, green and clean, was a rich resource of fish for families’ meals.
Nevertheless, the peaceful life of the people in the five districts and towns of the eastern part of Gia Lai and the lower course has got upset since the day the An Khe – Ka Nak hydropower plant became operational in September 2010.
The Ba River gets exhausted in the dry season, thus making the stream stuck. The water flow is not strong enough to sweep away the residues, seriously polluting the environment.
In the dry season, bad odor rises, shrouding the whole An Khe town, turning it into the “dead land.” As the hydropower plant blocks the river stream to store water for electricity generation units, the people in the lower course have no more water for daily life and watering crops.
The investor of An Khe – Ka Nak plant, when considering the solutions to use the river’s water, should have let the water flow to the lower course as arranged by “nature.” However, in order to optimize the profits, they decided to drive the stream to Binh Dinh province instead of Phu Yen province.
Anticipating the serious consequences, Gia Lai and Phu Yen provincial authorities strongly protested the plan. However, they could not do anything to change the minds of the investor.
An Khe – Ka Nak would not be the only hydropower plant on Ba river. Six power projects with the total capacity of 659 MW have been licensed by competent agencies. These include the 173 MW An Khe – Ka Nak, 250 MW Ba Ha River, 70 MW Hinh River, 60 MW Dak Rong, 66 MW Ea Krong Hnang and 40 MW Ba Thuong River.
Pham The Dung, Chair of the Gia Lai provincial people’s committee, has many times expressed his worry about the pollution of Ba River. He has urged the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment to stipulate the minimum flow for Ba River, which the investors will have to follow to ensure the normal water supply to local people.
The provincial authorities have also suggested establishing the Ba River valley commission, in charge of giving advices in the water resource management to the management agencies.
Gia Lai provincial authorities have instructed the local agencies to strictly inspect the factories in the locality and the implementation of the environment protection plan.
However, the river is still dying because of the human’s behaviors.
According to the Hydropower Plant Project Management Unit No. 7, belonging to the Electricity of Vietnam, the water capacity after going through the An Khe dam must be as high as 4 cubic meters per second. However, in fact, the water capacity in the dry season is so weak that it cannot drive away the waste water from the factories on Ba River side.