According to the Central Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control, in 2017-2018, natural disasters caused damages of trillions of dong and hundreds of deaths.
A landslide in Phong Tho district in Lai Chau province in August 2018 alone caused 15 casualties. One year before, a flash flood went through Mu Cang Chai town, with 14 people reported dead and missing.Most recently, heavy rains following Typhoon No 4 last August in some northern and central provinces left eight dead and missing.
“The loss of watershed forests has led to difficulties in flood prevention. We now have to pay a heavy price for deforestation. It will take tens of years to replace the forests,” said Tran Quang Hoai, general director of the General Department of Natural Disaster Prevention and Control.
Scientists point out that the environment is being devastated because people have chopped down trees to get timber and cleared forests to make room for hydropower plants.This is why natural disasters have occurred more regularly in Yen Bai, Son La, Ha Giang, Cao Bang, Lai Chau and Nghe An, where deforestation is most serious.
Exchanging forests for electricity?
Vu Trong Hong, former Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, stressed that the policy on using forestland to develop hydropower projects in an uncontrolled way has brought disaster.
Phan Dinh Nha, deputy head of the Consultancy Institute on Development (CODE), said hydropower plants did not cause the loss of forest, but rather it was the unreasonable management policy which lent a hand to people to deforest, under the cover of hydropower development.
In 2012, the National Assembly asked relevant ministries to weed out 400 small hydropower projects from the list of power projects to be developed.
However, observers said hydropower projects increased again after a short period of interruption. The local authorities of Lao Cai and Ha Giang provinces approved tens of small hydropower projects.
In the central region, three hydropower plants are located in a core ecological area, one in a natural reserve’s ecological rehabilitation zone.
Do Quang Tung, acting director of the Forest Protection Department, noted that flash floods were caused by climate change, while deforestation has led to climate change.
“Flash floods are getting more serious and aggressive. It is caused by the loss of forests,” Tung said.