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Small-sized reservoirs in Vietnam prove unsafe during floods

An estimated 90% of reservoirs in Vietnam are small-sized, and many of them are substandard in quality, have not been reinforced and do not undergo regular maintenance. Statistics show that Vietnam now has just over 6,500 reservoirs with a combined capacity of 11 billion cubic metres. As many as 6,393 or about 96% of them are small-sized with a capacity of less than three million cubic metres, but only a few of them are regularly repaired. Around 1,150 reservoirs are seriously aging and are in desperate need of repairs and upgrades, as they are no longer able to discharge water properly. “Most of these reservoirs were built during the 60s and 70s, so their quality is not up to modern standards, especially because they have been neglected. Incidents are often recorded at these reservoirs,” said an official from Vietnam Hydraulic Engineering at a seminar on reservoir safety held on July 10. Reports by localities across Vietnam show that to date 420 reservoirs, with capacities of less than 200,000 cubic metres, are aging, 64 of which are recorded as being in states of serious disrepair. The implementation of measures in response to incidents at these facilities is often sluggish, and can have consequences. Most such reservoirs are directly managed by local residents, who lack of technical training. The same situation has been recorded at hydropower dams. The country now has 75 major hydropower dams with capacity of less than 500 million cubic metres. Around 18 out of them have a capacity of less than 10 million cubic metres. Most of these dams were built by joint stock and private companies, who often cut corners to save expenses, and so they too are often not up to standards in terms of quality. This, many say, is the cause of such recent incidents as those at Ho Ho and Song Tranh 2 dams. “The incident at the Ho Ho Dam was a result of lax management. When the incident occurred the person in charge was absent and there was no one there to open the dam's valve. When they did arrive, the consequence were already serious,” said Dr. Pham Hong Giang, Chairman of the Vietnam National Committee on Large Dams and Water Resource Development (VNCOLD). Weak management Nghe An Province is often hit by natural disasters, such as storms and flooding. The province has over 625 reservoirs, including 88 with a capacity of over one million cubic metres. Most of the reservoirs have been in use for between 30 and 40 years, some have even been in use for 50 years or more. Nguyen Van De, Deputy Director of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said only two out of total 59 reservoirs managed by Irrigation Limited Company - Vuc Mau and Song Sao reservoirs - have flood management processes in place. Meanwhile, 575 other reservoirs are managed by communal governments and cooperatives who often do not pay proper attention to regular maintenance, causing several incidents. To date, only nine reservoirs in the province have safety certifications, while the rest are aging and lie in neglect, never being inspected for construction quality or safety standards. According to De, violations in the irrigation sector have drawn much of attention due to the lack of an effective legal framework for punishment. In order to improve the situation, Keiko Sato, the World Bank Vietnam Portfolio and Operations Manager, said that it is necessary for Vietnamese people to learn about reservoir safety and risk management while at the same time intensifying coordination among related ministries and branches. “Vietnam should pay proper attention to dyke management in downstream areas, reservoir and dam regulation and the application of modern technology in water management,” she recommended.

Last Modified : 2015/07/28