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Fatal flaws of responsibility

The Saigon Times Daily
Monday,  May 29,2017,21:58 (GMT+7)
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Fatal flaws of responsibility

The Saigon Times Daily

Four sixth graders in Phu Yen Province’s Son Hoa District drowned while swimming in the Ba Ha River last Wednesday as the river suddenly swelled, triggered by a full water discharge from the Ba Ha hydropower plant. Once again, innocent lives were lost in an oft-seen tragedy due to flaws that have never been fixed though huge property and human losses have been regularly reported. The repeated tragedy mirrors not only the dereliction of duty of heartless people in charge, but also their deadly incompetence.

As upstream floodwaters had increased, the hydropower plant obtained permission from the Ministry of Industry and Trade to operate its turbines. Then, the plant was operating at 90% capacity, discharging nearly 400 cubic meters of water per second from its reservoir, instantly causing the river to swell and killing four out of seven students swimming in the river at the time. The hydropower plant operator said it did nothing wrong.

“This is the normal business operation of the company, complying with regulations of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Industry and Trade,” Dang Van Tuan, deputy general director of the Ba Ha Hydropower Plant, is quoted as saying in Tuoi Tre newspaper.

But such compliance, such all-things-are-right mindset, leaves behind grave consequences. Residents in the downstream are unaware of the snap discharge of water, simply because the hydropower plant operator has never been mindful of others’ wellbeing.

Cao Minh Hoa, a senior official of Son Hoa District, asserts that when hydropower plants discharge water, only the operators and the Ministry of Industry and Trade are aware of it while local leaders and residents are never informed.

To Xuan Bao, an official with the Ministry of Industry and Trade, says the hydropower plant conducts business as planned but he admits that warnings have not been issued. He explains that as per regulations, alerts are compulsory in the flooding season only, not in the water-dwindling summer. However, Bao says it is necessary to have the warning system for the flood season ready for any sudden, substantial water release.

Tran Huu The, vice chairman of Phu Yen Province, says that fatal accidents take place every time floodwater is discharged, because the downstream community never has prior notice.

In this deadly accident, the hydropower plant operator failed to issue a prior warning. Not in the least have they cared for the possible losses of property and human lives downstream.

Thorough investigations should be launched to determine those responsible and tough sanctions imposed. Drastic changes must be introduced to regulations and procedures so that there may not be excuses or fallacies by people who shield themselves behind such norms to say they do nothing wrong. If the outcome is wrong, the regulations and procedures cannot be claimed to be right.

The Saigon Times Daily

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