The serious water shortage in Sa Pa is attributed to the excessive number of hydropower plants.
Sa Pa needs 4,000-6,500 cubic meters of water a day, but the water plant can supply only 3,000 cubic meters. The reservoirs providing daily-use water to the entire Sa Pa town are becoming depleted. In such conditions, water plants have to alternate water supplies.
Many hotels have refused guests. Some restaurants have had to buy water carried from other areas at the high price of VND500,000-550,000 per cubic meter.
Hospitals also suffer from water shortage. Sa Pa district’s General Hospital’s director confirmed the one week-long water shortage.
Asked about the reasons, Phung Chi Sy from the Vietnam Institute of Tropical Technology and Environmental Protection attributed it to the decline of underground water and the effects from hydropower plants.
Developing hydraulic power was a good decision, but developing too many hydropower plants with high density have had an adverse effect on the environment and people’s socio-economic activities.
“The depletion of surface water, more or less, is related to hydropower dams. When building hydropower dams, investors must be sure that the lower course areas can be provided with enough water,” an expert said.
However, in reality, hydropower plants store water for electricity generation in the dry season, causing water shortages in the lower course.
Stressing that hydropower plants’ investors and local authorities must take responsibility for the water shortage, the expert thinks local authorities need to instruct the plants to discharge water to ease the shortage.
The water plant in Sa Pa is exploiting water from four sources – Thac Bac, Suoi Ho 1, Suoi Ho 2 and Nha Pha with the total allowed capacity of 6,460 cubic meters per day. Of these, Nha Pha and Suoi Ho 1 is depleted, while the water volume reaching Thac Bac is also getting depleted.
According to Dao A Khoi, chair of Ban Ho commune People’s Committee, many hydropower plants exist in the locality. If counting the projects under consideration, Sa Pa has 20 hydropower projects with total capacity of 345.6 MW.
Sy said it is necessary to consider pluses and minuses when developing hydraulic power, because the water shortage affects not only Sa Pa, but also the image of Sa Pa as a tourism city.
The first thing that needs to be done, according to Sy, is to replant forests which were cleared arbitrarily. Next, it is necessary to review the plan on hydropower development and remove unreasonable projects.
Luu Duc Hai from the Hanoi University of Natural Sciences noted that hydropower has caused many negative impacts, including changes of landscapes, which have led to a reduction in the profits brought by tourism.