Any sustainable development must take into account environmental costs in regard to the health of the people as well as the long-term natural resources of the nation. Ngô Thế Vinh

To the Friends of the Mekong Group

INTRODUCTION: Vietnam’s energy program has been hampered by thermal power projects characterized by the highest pollution levels and average investment costs as compared to other cheap and clean sources.  In this essay, Ngô Thế Vinh MD wrote down his concerns about the impacts the influx of coal powered electric plants wrought on the health of the people and the pollution level that is already at an alarming level all over the country. The government apportioned 80% of the tax burden to fight pollution on gas cunsumption used mostly by the people when it accounts for 30% of carbon emission, while the thermal power plants that are responsible for 55% of carbon emission only have to pay 1,6% of the tax. Clearly, the country’s entire population is being asked to pay the lion’s share of the tax so that the thermal power plants can reap higher profits. At the same time, the government also offers preferential treatment to China and foreign interest groups by importing dirty coal with high pollution potentials in total disregard to their impacts on the people’s health and the accompanying social costs for many future generations.

It is high time for the Vietnamese government to take steps to replace thermal power with clean and cheap energy to show its respect for human rights that include the right of the people to live safely on their fatherland, drink clean water, breathe clean air. Their right to live, their inalienable right.

Picture 1: from left, Phạm Phan Long PE, Viet Ecology Foundation, Lê Anh Tuấn PhD, Research Institute for Climate Change - Cần Thơ University, Ngô Thế Vinh MD on the way to the coastline where Windfarm Bạc Liêu is located. [photo by Lê Phát Quới]

Picture 2: Cửu Long, The River with Nine Estuaries and two Currents, now reduced to Seven Estuaries: the Hậu River with 3 now down to 2: (1) Trần Đề Estuary, (2) Định An Estuary, (the Ba Thắc / Bassac estuary was filled). The Tiền River: six estuaries now only five: (3) Cung Hầu Estuary, (4) Cổ Chiên Estuary, (5) Hàm Luông Estuary, (Ba Lai Estuary has been dammed since 2000 to fight salinization), (6) Đại Estuary, (7) Tiểu Estuary. [source: map by Dragon/ CTU; annotations by Ngô Thế Vinh, CLCD BĐDS, 2nd edition, p.360].  Bạc Liêu Province with the Windfarm Bạc Liêu, Sóc Trăng Province with 3 Long Phú Thermal Power Plants(4,400 MW) and Trà Vinh Province with 4 Coastal Thermal Power Plants(4,260 MW). 7 of the 14 thermal power plants in the 12 provinces of the Mekong Delta. [source: Dragon/ CTU, annotation by Ngô Thế Vinh]


Bạc Liêu has an area of 2,526 km2, 56 km of coastline and a population of 876,800 including Vietnamese, Chinese, Khmer. The ethnic Chinese come mostly from Chaozhou hence this proverb: "Bạc Liêu is an austere land, in the river current teem thecatfish, on its banks the expatriates from Chaozhou."

Bạc Liêu offers a number of attractions that appeals to tourists: the former house of Công tử Bạc Liêu constructed in 1919 during the French era now converted to a hotel of the same name; musician Cao Văn Lầu famous for his composition Dạ cổ hoài lang that laid the foundation for the musical tradition of Nam Bộ peculiar to the South. Then, there are the two white salt fields in the two districts of Hoà Bình and Đông Hải; the Sân Chim Bird Sanctuary Bạc Liêu with its primary mangrove forests; the Xiêm Cán Pagoda built in the Khmer style since 1887, the largest of its kind in the Mekong Delta; the century old longan orchards famous for their delectable taste in the two villages of Hiệp Thành and Vĩnh Trạch Đông,

Picture 3: upper left: The Công tử Bạc Liêu’s house; upper right: The Xiêm Cán Khmer Pagoda in Bạc Liêu; lower left: Sân chim Bird Sanctuary in Bạc Liêu; lower right: Salt fields in Bạc Liêu [source: internet]


The Windfarm in Bạc Liêu generates electricity. It is very eco-friendly and attracts many tourists. From downtown Bạc Liêu, our car drove on Cao Văn Lầu Street, at the crossroad with Đô Thị 31 Street it veered left, took a right at the next crossroad to continue on a street running along the coastline leading to the Windfarm.

Bạc Liêu can be considered one of the cities that pioneered in the production of windpower in Vietnam. The windpower plant in Bạc Liêu is totally located off the coast of the hamlet of Biển Đông A, village of Vĩnh Trạch Đông, province of Bạc Liêu. The contruction of the plant was done in two phases:

_ Phase 1: from September 9, 2010 to October 2012. A total of 10 wind turbines were installed.

_ Phase 2: completed the installation of the remaining 52 wind turbines, for a total of 62 wind turbines installed at sea.

Each wind turbine has an output of 1,6 MW [megawatt]. If all the 62 wind turbines were running, the total output of the Windfarm in Bạc Liêu will amount to 99.2 MW.

The technical specifications of the Windfarm in Bạc Liêu are quite impressive: the wind turbines are manufactured by GE / General Electric. The specifications of each wind tower are as follows, weight: over 200 tons, height: 82,5 m, diameter: 4 m, length of each of the 3 blades: 42 m.

Picture 4: Tickets to the Windfarm in Bạc Liêu will allow people to visit a facility that generates clean electricity and a touristic site. [private collection Ngô Thế Vinh]

Lê Anh Tuấn PhD observed: "The Windfarm in Bạc Liêu is the typical example that testifies to the rich windpower potentials of the coastline of Việt Nam. It has not yet been optimally exploited to this day. College students come here on field trips to be introduced to the notion of what is truly green energy, clean energy, and friendly energy which is very different from the black or grey energy generated by thermal power plants that pollute the environment." 

Members of our group also talked about the possibility of extending the windfarm to offshore areas. They also discussed the idea of combining the existing wind turbines with solar panels that woud prove very economical. The distribution grids that connect the wind turbines already exist. All that needs to be done is to install solar panels to serve as roofs to protect the existing base of the power grids and generate power at the same time.

Picture 5: Vietnam lies within the tropical monsoon region with a coastline extending over 2,200 km in length. The land is blessed with plenty of sunshine and wind, an abundant source of renewable energy that has yet to be fully exploited. [photo by Dương Văn Ni]

The inauguration ceremony of the windpower plant in Bạc Liêu took place on 01.17.2016. The project was started on 09.09.2010 and covered an area of 1,300 hecta with the wind turbines installed off the coast from the Nhà Mát Ward to the boundary with Sóc Trăng Province. The project took over 5 years to be finished, reaching an output of 99.2 MW. This is the largest windpower plant in the country to date.

Bạc Liêu is entertaining the prospect of adding 71 wind turbines (2MW/each) to the project with a total output of 142 MW over a period of 36 months.  This would represent a contribution of renewable energy source to the nation’s power grids.

Picture 6: Lê Anh Tuấn PhD, expert at the Research Institute for Climate Change - Cần Thơ University was holding an exposé on the potentials of windpower in Bạc Liêu. He also works in support of the "Save the Mekong, Our River Feeds Millions" organization headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand. [photo by Ngô Thế Vinh]

Prior to Bạc Liêu, the coastal province of Bình Thuận already had a windpower plant at Tuy Phong District, albeit at a smaller scale, of 20 wind turbines with a total output of 30 MW. In addition, Bình Thuận ran another windpower plant on the Phú Quý Island with 3 wind turbines with a total output of 6 MW. Compared to Bạc Liêu, Bình Thuận is the case of an “early starter but late finisher". To this date, there are 5 windpower plants in operation in Vietnam with a combined output of 160 MW.  Though they are late comers and still in the primitive stage but can look forward to a promising future. Wind and solar power together will gradually replace thermal power, a dreadful polutter of the environment.


On the surface of the sea the color of dark brown from the high content of alluvia, green shoots emerge. They are enclosed in wavebreakers made of bamboo to protect and help them grow. Nguyễn Hữu Thiện MS, expert in wetlands, observed that this is a pilot project by GIZ-Germany [GIZ / Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit] to help Vietnam in the reforestation of mangrove forests to fight landslides of the coastline. The plants need from 2-3 years to grow big enough to take root and do their work.

Picture 7: Nguyễn Hữu Thiện MS talked about the pilot project by GIZ-Germany to help Vietnam in its effort of reforestation of the mangrove forests, and plant young plants in wavebreakers made of bamboo. It will take from 2 to 3 years for the plants to take root and do their work as wavebreakers. [photo by Ngô Thế Vinh]

Picture 8: from left, Lê Phát Quới PhD, Nguyễn Văn Hưng MD, Lê Anh Tuấn PhD, Phạm Phan Long Engineer, Dương Văn Ni PhD, Ngô Thế Vinh MD, Nguyễn Hữu Thiện MS, with two Khmer friends selling sea crabs.When asked by Thiện where do the baby crabs come from, they innocently pointed to the abdomen of a female crab. [photo by driver Sang]


Sóc Trăng is a coastal province with an area of 3,312 km2, a coastline of 72 km; population of 1.3 million. This is the 6th largest province in both area and population of the Mekong Delta. It borders Hậu Giang Province in the Northwest, Bạc Liêu Province in the Southwest, Trà Vinh Province in the Northeast, the East Sea in the East and Southeast, on the right side of the Hậu River that runs into the East Sea at the Định An and Trần Đề estuaries, a brackish region abundant in fish and shrimps. The name Sóc Trăng is derived from the Khmer language: Srok meaning "region/land", Kh'leang "barn" where a large number of Khmer, Chinese and Vietnamese congregate. Sóc Trăng is located 62 km from Cần Thơ, and 230 km from Saigon. [Picture 2]

The fertile soil in Sóc Trăng is suitable for the planting of rice, sugar canes, soy bean, corn, onion, garlic and fruit trees like grape fruits, mangos, durian… farm land accounts for 82%, forests 3,43%, aquaculture 16,42%, salt production 0,97% of the land. Sóc Trăng also has mangroves of cajuputs, cork trees, mung beans, bruguiera, rhizophora, and nipa trees.

In Sóc Trăng Province, the Nguyệt or Maspero River meanders through Sóc Trăng City. The dual tides in the local canal system has an average tide differential from 0,4 m to 1 m. The Maspero River is where the traditional boat race Ghe Ngo of the Khmer people takes place in November each year.

Picture 9: The boat race festival of Ghe Ngo Ok Om Bok takes place in a festive mood on the Maspero River, Sóc Trăng Province in mid October of the Khmer calendar, [around the first part of November each year] with activities like the Ngo boat race, the Cúng Trăng offering ceremony; Top picture: TheGhe Ngo Ok Om Bok boat race 2017; Bottom picture: the Ghe Ngo racing teams during the annual boat race. [source: STV Television Sóc Trăng] 


At the present time, there are two thermal power plant projects in Sóc Trăng named Long Phú I and II (located at Long Đức Village, Long Phú District) with an output of 1,200 MW for each plant. The Long Phú III Project (not yet implemented) has an output of 2,000 MW. The combined output for those three thermal power plants in Sóc Trăng alone will total 4,400 MW [twice the output of the hydropower plant Hoà Bình, and greater than that of the Xiaowan Mother Dam astride the main current of the Mekong River in Yunnan, China].  The thermal power plant Long Phú I is scheduled to go in operation at the close of 2018.

The future impacts caused by those three thermal power plants in Long Phú, Sóc Trăng will be similar to the disastrous ones the group of thermal power plants already in operation is visiting on the inhabitants along the coastline of Trà Vinh Province.  


Is a coastal province in the Mekong Delta: area: 2,341 km2, coastline: 65 km, population: over 1 million of Vietnamese, Chinese, Chăm, Khmer. This province lies in between the two Tiền and Hậu Rivers, with the two Cung Hầu and Định An Estuaries. It borders the East Sea in the East, Vĩnh Long Province in the West, Sóc Trăng Province in the South, and Bến Tre Province in the North. [Picture 2]

If you come to Trà Vinh as a tourist, you have to visit the many famous ancient sites of the Khmer civilization this province is known for: the Ba Động Beach since the French colonial time; Bà Om Pond, 100,000 m2 in area, considered one of the most picturesque landscapes in Trà Vinh; the pagodas of Chùa Hang, Chùa Âng, Chùa Vàm Rây, all constructed in the characteristic style of Khmer pagodas and serving as cultural and educational centers for the Khmer locals. Then, there are also the ecological tourist attractions of Rừng Đước Forest where many wildlife can still be seen and the Tân Quy Island in the middle of the Hậu River, a garden of Eden of fruit trees peculiar to the Delta of the South.

Picture 10: upper, the Chùa Hang Pagoda with its gate built in the shape of a cavern and an inner yard as large as a natural forest of very old trees, a habitat for birds and fowls; lower, Quy Island located right in the middle of the Hậu River, a garden of Eden of fruit trees peculiar to the Delta of the South. [source: internet]

Even though this is a place worthy of a visit but our group had to forego on the idea to save time to reach our destination.


Nguyễn Hữu Thiện MS, expert on wetlands, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin recounted the events that unfolded after the thermo plants in Trà Vinh started running in October of 2016:

“During the Dry Season of 2016, when the thermo plant at Duyên Hải, was undergoing a test run, black smoke descended on the salt fields at Cồn Cù causing damages to the local population. The salt of this region is famous throughout the Mekong Delta for its spongy white color and moderate saltiness. It fetches double the price of ordinary salts. But due to the black smoke it lost half of its value. The ponds used to farm giant tiger prawns were also affected. The plant blocked the unhindered access to the ocean causing the water to back up. It flooded the people’s houses and spread foul smell all over the place. On one occasion, the whole neighborhood came down with fever.”

Nguyễn Hữu Thiện MS explained:

"Thermal power plants constantly require a gigantic quantity of water to cool their generators. For that reason, they are usually built near the sea or river. The discharged hot water will warm up the adjoining sea or river impacting their aquatic ecosystem. Fishermen reported significantly reduced catches in those areas.”

Nguyễn Hữu Thiện MS went on:

"If large expanses of the ocean could be so severely impacted by hot water then how would a section of a river fare? For example, if in the coming days, the Long Phú and Sông Hậu thermal power plants become operational and continuously discharge hot water then how could anchovies survive in the adjacent river? Sure, the water is not hot enough to kill them. However, the fish and shrimps will be prevented by the hot water from continuing on with their migration to spawn. And, it would be difficult to gather scientific evidence due to the absence of dead fish. We can call these sections the “thermal dams” on the rivers. The devastations they wreck on fishery can be more dramatic than those emanating from hydroelectric dams but all the while less apparent.     

Some appalling figures: to operate, a thermal power plant requires daily over 12.000 tons of coal leaving behind a massive discharge of over 4,500 tons of ash. With such large volume, waste dumps will be quickly filled with no solution in sight. Pollution will go on unabated at a larger scale.

In the EIA/ Environment Impact Assessment] page 153, the waste dumps only have a 10 day capacity. After that, the waste must be transported to a new location. The idea of selling the waste to another user for further processing cannot be accepted as viable solution. On the contrary, it is a very risky one.

In the same EIA, pages 95-96, the total water discharge of over 7 degrees C from the plant is estimated at 4,8 million m3/day. Of which 1,8 million m3/day in the form of acid with a pH level as low as 3 are untreated while the treated water amounted to a mere 2,500 m3/ day. Furthermore, it failed to mention the destructive impacts such large daily discharge of acid will bring to bear on the ecology of the coastline as well as the economy of fishery.

Then, the devastating emission of gas and coal dusts must also be accounted for: the coal dusts, not visible to the human eye that blackened the salt fields or shrimp farms carry tiny trace of toxins like mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenics. They will contaminate the soil, water, then infect the plants even animals that serve as food sources for humans.  However, the most dangerous agent is the extremely fine 2.5 micron or PM 2.5 emission from the thermal power plant. It carries the toxin Benzo(a)pyrene or BaP – found in cigarette smoke and considered carcinogenic. Those floating particles will be carried by the wind to distant places and could be easily inhaled into the lungs causing respiratoty ailments, cancer of the lungs, and cardiovascular diseases.

The EIA of the project should be rejected on day one because the investors had totally neglected to run the model of floating PM 2.5 emitted by the plants to ascertain whether the standards for thermal power plants and for the handling of the discharge within its vicinity are met in the worst case scenario.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Health did not provide any statistics, but according to a study conducted by Harvard University the number of premature deaths caused by thermal power plants in Vietnam will be increased by almost 5 times to 15.700 in 2030. (5)   

The negative impacts from the thermal power plants make people feel anxious to the point of losing sleeps at night. Even local leaders cannot escape the grips of anxiety and insecurity. The question is: are the economic benefits commensurate with the societal costs suffered by the local inhabitants? The answer is still out but the dark ominous clouds of pollution are looming over the sky of the entire Mekong Delta and of Vietnam in general. Clearly, the almost 20 million inhabitants of the Mekong Deta and the almost 100 million people in the country have no other choice but to live in discontent with those ticking “time bombs,” until the day the"coup de grâce" comes from the North.


We reached the two thermal power plants of Duyên Hải in late evening, but the plants’ compound was brightly lit and their generators still buzzing. We drove on the narrow road that encircles the plants and could take pictures from the car windows in the dark.

Across the street from the plants, stood a lone restaurant with a low roof and a sign in Chinese characters: Trung Quốc Thương Điếm/ Chinese trading post and the Vietnamese words Tạp Hoá/Grocery. This location will presumably grow into a future Little Chinatown. The place is sparsely furnished with several round tables on which bowls, chopsicks, even food plates were already set. I immediately realized this is a restaurant that catered monthly to the Chinese workers at the plants. The room was abuzz with conversations in the Chinese language coming from several occupied tables. We chose a table large enough for eight to have dinner and observe the place.

Picture 11, left: Trung Quốc thương điếm Restaurant the sign lists the products that are sold at the place: Chinese food, beer, white wine, cigarettes; Vietnamese products: coffee, swallow bird nests,  deer antlers…the store telephone number is listed at the end of the list; center:the Quê hương Tứ Xuyên Restaurant; right: Made in China liquors on the shelves. [photo by Ngô Thế Vinh]

The restaurant owner is a lady coming from North Vietnam, fair skin and quite attractive, not yet 30 years old. She was quick to ask us: "Where do you gentlemen come from, and you also take pictures of my restaurant," Then she let us know that she only had enough food for the customers who already placed their order but would cook for us if we were willing to wait. 

They only served Chinese food that was naturally oily.

She prepared only three dishes for us but we had a hot meal with Tsing Tao beer imported from China. Through our conversation, I could come up with a brief biography of the restaurant owner. Her family moved from the North to Bảo Lộc after 1975 and she saw life in the South but still spoke the Northern dialect. Her parents still lived in Bảo Lộc. She attended school and studied journalism: “I studied communication and worked for the TV station in Đắc Nông District”. I asked: “The district also has its own TV station?” She replied: “Ah, sometimes a radio station would also be called TV station you know, after that I went to work in Bình Dương." At the Bình Dương special zone, she married a Chinese whose last name is Lý. He came from China’s mainland and is probably an engineer employed at the place. She had a son Lý Hào who took his father’s last name and was then 3 years old. I did not inquire any further but know that her husband was working at the thermal power plant Duyên Hải across the street. She moved with her husband to the place and opened the restaurant mainly to cater to the Chinese workers of the plant. She and her son could speak Chinese, but "I also teach him some Vietnamese".  

This was probably a typical Sino-Vietnamese marriage very much encouraged by Beijing. The number of Chinese who come to work in Vietnam grows by the day whether legal or not. Vietnamese young girls who are still free and out of work, would consider it a good and opportune time for them to marry a foreigner, achieve financial stability but do not have to travel to “far away lands”.

From Vietnam, looking to the two neighbors Laos, Cambodia and all the way to African countries, everywhere you can see the “special economic zones” built by the Chinese mushroom uncontrollably. These zones will become de facto “territory/ concession” controlled by China.

Picture 12: Thermal power plants Duyên Hải I & III in full operation on 7/24; because the pictures were taken at night, black clouds could not be seen rising from the smoke stacks of the plants. [photo by Ngô Thế Vinh, 12.12.2017]


Within Vietnam’s boundary, there are currently:

_ 26 thermal power plants in operation, of which only 3 were built prior to 2000 [Ninh Bình 1974, Hải Dương 1983, Uông Bí 1975], the remaining 23 were constructed in a hurry after that year.  The total output of thermal electricity in the country is raised to 15,203 MW.

_ 18 thermal power plants are now under construction with a total projected output of 14,915 MW, 15 other projects with known investors and a total output of 20,560 MW; and still 8 more projects to be funded by investors with a total output of 8,350 MW.

To attain  the ambitious goal of reaching 59,068 MW in 2030, there are many hurddles to contend with: besides the problem of ascertaining the per unit average production cost of thermal power charged by the investors (mostly Chinese in this case) other collateral damages must also be taken into consideration[economists also use a different term for them: external costs] Those costs are always concealed: the price we must pay in the forms of degradation of the land, water source, air and the people’s health constantly used as sacrificial lambs  on the altar of an inadequate  health system that fails to cope with an expotentially growing number of victims of pollution. Preventive Medicine that includes Environmental Medecine is almost nonexistent in Vietnam. When will come the time for the Ministry of Health and the School of Medecine to raise their voice in staunch defense of the people’s health?  The government never tires of boasting about the economic growth rate, but has it ever included into its computation the billions of US Dollars spent on the care for the poor health of the people, the number of deaths caused by pollution of the environment resulting from thermal power plants?

Picture 13:Plan for electricity power development for the 2011-2020 period and to 2030 with an approximate investment cost of US$ 148 billion. Plan for Electricity VII adjusted, Ministry of Industry and Trade 3/18/2016. (4)


It is projected by an approved electricity plan that by 2030, in the Mekong Delta, 14 thermal power plants will be constructed in the provinces of Trà Vinh, Sóc Trăng, Tiền Giang, Hậu Giang, Long An, Bạc Liêu and the city of Cần Thơ. The two centers of thermal power plants (Duyên Hải in Trà Vinh and Long Phú I, II, III in Sóc Trăng), we visited are the largest with a combined output of about 18,270 MW.

A member of our group, Lê Anh Tuấn PhD, Research Institute for Climate Change - Cần Thơ University offered this pessimistic observation: "The Mekong Delta does not have a local source of coal supply, rendering the plants dependent on foreign sources of supply for coal and equipment [mainly China]and endangering the energy security of the entire Mekong Delta. More importantly, the emission of greenhouse gas from the thermal power plants is quite high negatively impacting climate change, devastating the ecosystem even the life and health of millions of inhabitants."

Normally, in all development projects, it is mandatory to include the long term "environmental costs" in the evaluation of economic benefits. A case in point: in the project to build 4 thermal power plants in the coastal province of Trà Vinh, only the benefits of having an additonal output of 2,400 MW to meet the demand for domestic and production use were mentioned. But, no reference was made of the destruction those plants would wreck on the environment: land, water, air, agricultural production, marine product.  No consideration was given to the negative impacts on the health and lives of the people as well as the tremendous burden imposed on the health system.

It is high time for the people to realize they have the right to live in a healthy environment on the land their forefathers bequeathed to them, to drink the clear water in the waterways of their motherland. Vietnam should not do things on the cheap and embrace China’s outdated, dirty technologies to eventually suffer a “Death by China * so eloquently enunciated by the title of a well-known book.


Nowadays, the world is gradually moving away from thermal power, including China, formerly the top polluter in thermal power and the number one emitter of CO2 on this planet. Seeing that their country has suffered the worst from pollution, the Chinese have come to their senses, shut down the bulk of their thermal power plants to focus their efforts on clean energy, renewable energy. Today, China has surpassed the United States on the production of renewable energy, supplied 2/3 of the solar panels and half of the wind turbines in the world. 

Regrettably, while pushing ahead their efforts to “keep China green " they also promote the export of their surplus thermal power plants. According to the Global Environmental Institute, China is the top exporter of thermal power plants in the world.  It estimated that by the end of 2016, this country was building 106 thermal power plants in 25 countries, includingVietnam, they consider their least savvy customer. Worst of all, Vietnam is buying their second-rate thermal power equipment marked for salvage. Moreover, Vietnam exports to China better grade coal to import in return peats to run the Chinese made thermal power plants, thus rendering the pollution inside the country even worse.

Bucking the global trend, Vietnam profusely increases its investment in thermal power plants in complete disregard for the devastating impacts the latter brought to bear on the environment and health of the people. Those second-rate thermal power plants and their Chinese engineers or workers are given free reins in the territory of Vietnam. They can freely discharge waste, air emission, and heat devastating the habitat and severely impacting the long-term health of the people who have to acquiesce because they are deprived of their freedom of speech.

With this “counter current" policy, the Vietnamese leaders have accomplished an undesirable feat: place Vietnam in the top 10 most polluted nations of the world.

The environment of Vietnam is being sacrificed as a result of the shortsightedness of its leaders and interest groups. This author has more than once reiterated that: the environment and democracy form an inseparable “duo".


That is the topic of a new article written by Professor Nguyễn Khắc Nhẫn, a reputable international voice of energy policy, a former Director of  the College of Electrical Engineering, the National Academy of Engineering at Phú Thọ [prior to 1975], Adviser to the Economic Bureau, strategic forecasting at the French Energy Defense Fund (EDF) Paris, Professor at the Economic Institute, energy policy, Professor at the Grenoble Polytechnic Institute of France. Professor Nhẫn referred to a study of 139 countries in the world done by Stanford University in 2016 that concluded the goal of achieving 100% renewable energy in 2050 is attainable. The Stanford study evaluates the potential for renewale energy, job creation as well as the reduction of the impacts of pollution on the health of the people. That finding also applies to France: This country is in a position to attain 100% renewable energy in 2050, with 55% from wind power, 35% from solar cells, 6% from hydro power, the remaining from sea power. With such makeup, energy consumption will decrease by 36% compared to today, create an additional 700,000 jobs. France will save 200 billion Euro per year in health care costs for treatments of pollution related ailments, spare the lives of 20,000 individuals. [6]

Prior to 1975, Professor Nguyễn Khắc Nhẫn has helped trained many generations of engineers. In his vision for the energy policy of Vietnam, he offered the following proposal:

It is possible to attain a saving of 25-30% in the nation’s energy consumption.  Improvement in the way of energy use can result in 20% reduction in consumption. Focus investment in renewable energy in accordance to a clear, long-term program with the following priorities: biomass, solar panels, solar thermal, wind on land and in the sea,
solar thermodynamics, geothermal, marine energy.

Picture 14: Professor Nguyễn Khắc Nhẫn, a respected voice in the international community in energy policy, former Director of  the College of Electrical Engineering, the National Academy of Engineering at Phú Thọ [prior to 1975], Adviser to the Economic Bureau, strategic forecasting at the French Energy Defense Fund (EDF) Paris, Professor at the Economic Institute, energy policy, Professor at the Grenoble Polytechnic Institute of France. [source: internet]

Professor Nguyễn Khắc Nhẫn also porposed concrete measures:

Establish a Ministry of Renewable Energy: limit the growth of energy use to less than 5% per year, teach courses in energy from high school to college levels, work for a more informed public, change the way of thinking of the people, each region must have the right to  adopt its own energy policy, support changes and innovations by local communities, implement pilot projects using renewable energies, encourage the building of smart cities, intensify the development of smart grids, invest in the storage methods of alternative energies, stop the construction of thermal power plants... and Professor Nguyễn Khắc Nhẫn stressed: "The success depends a great part on the political determination of the government."

He concluded that the goal of 100% renewable energy in Vietnam in the year 2050 is perfectly realizable. At the age of almost 90, Professor Nguyễn Khắc Nhẫn still cares for the motherland and expresses this wish: "I respectfully and eagerly call on the government to mobilize the entire population and its potentials to achieve that extremely important objective for the nation." [6]


An example: the group of hydro electric plants at Long Phú 4,400 MW started operation in 2018. Suppose the average life cycle of that plant is 70 years, by 2088, it woud have outlived most of the people who were born in 2018 whose average life expectancy was under 70 at the time of their birth.

In the Mekong Delta alone, the 14 thermal power plants, like 14 dinosaurs, are spewing out black smoke every minute of the day. Besides contaminating the air, water in rivers and sea with toxins, it is also widely known that they also cause long-term impacts on the people’s health and reduce their life expectancy.

The economic benefits remain to be determined yet the damages they visited on the environment and people are for certain. Therefore, what must the people do to preserve the land their forefathers bequeathed them and render Vietnam a place worth living?

_ First of all, the people and leaders at the provincial levels must learn to say “no” to the thermal power plants that are being imposed on their blessed land.

_ Conscious of the permanent damages coming non-stop from those operating plants, the people have the right to demand rigorous controls of the plants in order to reduce the damages to the maximum.

_ Set up a health and life insurance fund commensurate to the loss of the victims of pollution. The money is comparable to the “carbon pollution tax” to be deducted from the revenues of the thermal power plants in question.   

_ The people need to be more informed and understand that the trend in the world is to replace polluting thermal power with renewable energy [witness a chastened China], the people need to be reassured that Vietnam is a land blessed with sunshine and wind. With common resolve, the people and their enlightened leaders can see to it that Vietnam will not be lacking in electricity. It has the ability to achieve 100% renewable energy and show that our country is no longer a land and air drowned in pollution but a place worthy of living. That it is still a blessed land.

Bạc LiêuSóc TrăngTrà Vinh,
Mekong Delta 12.2017 – 08.2020

* Death by China: Confronting the Dragon - A Global Call to Action. Peter Navarro, Greg Autry. Pearson FT Press, May 15, 2011


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