01/07/2020, 14.18
VIETNAM
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Priests join residents in Quảng Bình to protest against dangerous new dam

by Thanh Thuy

The Rào Nam dam is only 150 metres from the village of Linh Cận Sơn. Nine villages in Quảng Trạch district are at risk if it should overflow. Local clergymen have appealed to the authorities, which have responded with intimidation and death threats.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – In Quảng Bình province, on the coast of central Vietnam, priests and religious have backed since last August local protests against the construction of a dam that puts the homes of hundreds of families at risk.

The Rào Nam dam is only 150 metres from Linh Cận Sơn, a village in Quảng Sơn, a rural borough in Ba Đồn township. Residents fear that any problem with the barrier could sow death and destruction.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Quảng Bình Province has invested 350 billion dongs (US$ 15.1 million) in the Rào Nam Irrigation System Project.

Construction began in 2017 and, according to the authorities, should be finished by the end of 2021. The project is designed to replace an older dam with one seven metres higher. Once completed, it will supply water to 1,800 hectares of farmland and fish farms.

Provincial authorities started the project despite opposition. Residents note that the dam threatens nine villages in Quảng Trạch district.

In particular, locals are concerned by what the dam might do during the rainy season. If the authorities decide to release water because of excessive volume, the discharge could wash away entire villages, including houses and livestock.

In Hòa Ninh, Diocese of Hà Tĩnh, the local clergy have come out in support of local residents in their protest. On 27 December, seven priests issued an appeal calling on the faithful to pray and support the people of Quảng Trạch.

The statement describes the dam as “a huge water bomb” hanging over the heads of the residents of the nine villages. For this reason, the clergymen urge the local authorities to explain publicly and fully the project.

The authorities have instead responded with intimidation and attempts at bribery, using party media to defame opponents of the project and priests. The latter have even received death threats as well.

“Our people are very poor,” said Ms Ra Phan Thị Thủy, a resident of Linh Cận Sơn village, speaking to local media.

“This area is located downstream. Every rainy season, we are hit hard. Half of our homes are at constant flood risk. The water can sweep everything away. After each flood, we are very scared. But now the government wants to block the river to build a new dam over seven metres high. In case of heavy rainfall, it could break. "

Other residents note that “The consequences would be disastrous. We ask the government to move the dam by five kilometres and reduce its height.”

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