2 October 2002 – Vietnamese ministers yesterday agreed to select the scaled down three-level terraced option for the Son La hydroelectric power project after objections were raised over the expense, safety and environmental impact of the huge 2400 MW project.

The three-level option includes the Hoa Binh, Son La and Lai Chau hydroelectric power plants and will cost between $2,6bn and £2.7bn. It will mean the relocation of 91 000 people in the region.

The government agreed to build the Son La project with an average rise in water level of 215m. This is the fourth time the government has spent time considering and perfecting the feasibility of this project, paying particular attention to its scale and options for relocating households that would be affected because of the new dam.

The government adopted an overall plan on the relocation and settlement of local households, focusing on the necessity to ensure good living conditions for inhabitants in new places.

The original design would have formed a 256m deep lake and forced over 100 000 people from their homes.

The Son La electric project was devised by the Electricity of Vietnam [EVN] and submitted to the Prime Minister for approval in August 1998. The project will still need the approval of the National Assembly.

Construction is due to commence in 2005 with 70 per cent of the funding coming from domestic sources and the remainder from foreign loans.

Electricity consumption in Vietnam has been increasing on average 14-15 per cent per year and EVN has plans to build 37 new power plants, including 22 hydropower plants over the next seven years in order to meet this demand.