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Son La Hydropower Dam, Vietnam


Construction of the Son La Hydropower project on the Da River was approved in June 2001 and commenced in 2005. It is located 250km upstream of the Hoa Binh Hydropower Dam and approximately 360km northwest of Hanoi. The Son La dam is a multi-purpose project for electricity supply, water storage for irrigation, and flood protection. Its capacity is 2400 MW and can generate approximately 9,000GW of power annually. The project was originally scheduled to be operational in 2015, but in order to increase national revenue, construction was sped up to be completed 2 years early in 2013.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Son La Hydropower Dam, Vietnam
State or province:Muong La District, Son La Province
Location of conflict:It Ong
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Dams and water distribution conflicts
Water access rights and entitlements
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The plant capacity is 2400 MW and can generate approximately 9,000GW of power annually.

Project area:23,330
Level of Investment:3,200,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:100,000
Company names or state enterprises:Electricity of Vietnam from Vietnam
Relevant government actors:Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Association, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Industry and Trade
International and Finance InstitutionsAsian Development Bank (ADB)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageLATENT (no visible resistance)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
International scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow)
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Institutional changes
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:There were no opportunities for public participation throughout the project. The project was sped up by two years and no public hearings were scheduled for local input and people were told to resettle sooner. Despite the considerable amount of opposition, in particular from international actors when the World Bank and ADB were considering funding the project (and then subsequently withdrew), the Vietnamese government proceeded with the project citing “national interest”. Also, despite Vietnamese laws and policies in principle protecting the local people, they were rarely considered and were generally overlooked. (7) (8) (11)
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Land Law 1993

Civil Code (1995)

Revised Land Law (2003)

Decision No. 196/2004/QD-TTg

Decision No. 459/QD-TTg

Decision No. 02/2007/QD-TTG

Resolution No. 44/2001/QH10

Resolution No. 13/2002

Decree No. 69/2009/QD-TTg

Law on Environmental Protection (1993), revised in 2005

Law on Water Resources (1998)

Decree 22/1998/ND-CP

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Dang Quang Tinh (n.d.). “Participatory Planning and Management for Flood Mitigation and Preparedness and Trends in the Red River Basin, Viet Nam”. Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Nga Dao Thi Viet (2012) “Resettlement, Displacement and Agrarian Change in Northern Uplands of Vietnam”. PhD Dissertation Graduate Program in Geography. York University. Toronto, Ontario.

Nga Dao (2011) “Damming Rivers in Vietnam: A Lesson Learned in the Tay Bac Region”. Journal of Vietnamese Studies, Vol. 6, Issue 2, pp 106-140.

Shestopalov, Pavel V., & Volynchikov, Alexander N. (2013). “Challenges Overcome in Designing and Building Son La Dam in Vietnam”. HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide. Vol. 21 Issue 1

Doberstein, Brent (2003). “EIA models and capacity building in Viet Nam: an analysis of development aid programs”. Environmental Impact Assessment Review. Elsevier Inc. 24(2004) 283-318

Nga Dao (2010) “Dam Development in Vietnam: The Evolution of Dam-Induced Resettlement Policy” Water Alternatives, Vol. 3, Issue 2, pp 324-340

Nguyen, Quang Tuyen (2010). “Land Law Reforms in Vietnam – Past & Present”. Working Paper Series No. 015. Asian Law Institute.

Nguyen, Ang Tuan (2012). “A Case Study on Power Sector Restructuring in Vietnam”. Pacific Energy Summit. Hanoi, Vietnam

Cao Thi Thu Yen (2003). “Towards Sustainability of Vietnam’s Large Dams: Resettlement in Hydropower Projects”. Master of Science Thesis, Department of Infrastructure, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.

Tran Van Ha (2011). “Local People’s Participation in Involuntary Resettlement in Vietnam: A Case Study of the Son La Hydropower Project” ch.3 edited by Kate Lazarus, Bernadette P. Resurreccion, Nga Dao, Nathan Badenoch (2011) “Water Rights and Social Justice in the Mekong Region”.

Pham, Anh Huyen (2010). “Evaluation of Socio-Economic Impact Assessment in Power Sector Projects in Vietnam”. School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich. Masters Dissertation.

Long, Le Thanh (2001). “Vietnamese Water Resources Legislation and Legal Regulation of Dams: Viewed Through the World Commission on Dams’ Suggested Policy Framework”. American University International Law Review. Vol. 16, Issue 6, Article 9, pp 1631-1694

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Ngan Ha (2013). “Son La Hydropower Plant – Project of the Century”. Vietnam News Agency.
[click to view]

Vietnam Net, “Son La Hydropower Project – project of the century”:
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

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Meta information
Contributor:Carl Middleton, Sarah Allen, Matilde Sgotto
Last update24/06/2014
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