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Quảng Bình, Priests in Solidarity With Citizens: The New Dam is a Danger

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The Rào Nam irrigation system is only 150 meters away from the village of Linh Cận Sơn. In the event of an overflow, nine villages in the Quảng Trạch district are at risk. To clergy appeals, the authorities responded with intimidation and death threats.

By Thanh Thuy

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – In the coastal province of Quảng Bình (central Vietnam), priests and religious have supported protests by residents since last August against the construction of a dam that puts the homes of hundreds of families at risk. The Rào Nam dam is only 150 meters from Linh Cận Sơn, a village located in Quảng Sơn, a rural municipality in the municipality of Ba Đồn. Citizens fear that a malfunction of the plant could cause death and destruction.

For the Rào Nam Irrigation System Project, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Quảng Bình Province has made a total investment of 350 billion dong (approximately 15 million dollars U.S.). The construction of the barrier began in 2017 and, according to the authorities, will end in 2021. The project involves the replacement of the old dam with one seven meters higher. Once completed, this will supply water to 1,800 hectares of agricultural land and fish farms.

The provincial authorities opened the construction site despite the fact that the project immediately met resistance. According to the population, the increased reach of the basin poses a threat to nine villages in the Quảng Trạch district. In particular, the operation of the dam during the rainy season is of concern. Should the authorities decide to open the barrier to avoid overflowing, the water would invade the villages, wiping out houses and livestock.

In their protests, the residents of the area are supported by the clergy of the district of Hòa Ninh (diocese of Hà Tĩnh). On December 27, seven priests published an appeal in which they invite the faithful to prayer and communion with the population of Quảng Trạch. In the document, the dam is called “a huge water bomb” which hangs over the heads of nine villages. For this, the priests asked that the local government explain the project publicly and comprehensively. The authorities responded with intimidation and bribery attempts, using party media to defame opponents of the project and priests. The latter have even been subject to death threats.

Ms. Ra Phan Thị Thủy, a resident of Linh Cận Sơn village, told local media: “Our people are very poor. This area is located downstream. Every rainy season, we are hit hard. Half of our homes are at constant flood risk. Water is able to 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 7 meters tall. In case of heavy rainfall, this could break.” Other residents add, “The consequences would be disastrous. We ask the government to move the dam by 5 km and reduce its height.”