Potential hazards of nearshore wind power in the Mekong Delta

As a pioneer province in the Mekong River Delta in developing coastal wind power, the entire 56 km length of Bac Lieu’s coastline is almost completely covered with near-shore wind power projects. However, the reality shows that wind power near the shore is not only narrowing the fishing grounds of fishermen fishing near the shore, but also has the risk of adversely affecting the coastal ecosystem, people’s livelihoods depend on the sea…

“We are losing our fishing grounds”, pointing to Cai Cung canal leading to the sea, where boats are located along the canal right in the fishing season, fisherman Mai Thanh Binh (Vinh Lac hamlet, Vinh Thinh commune, Hoa Binh district, Bac Lieu) tiredly said. Like many other fishermen in Vinh Thinh, for the past two years, Mr. Binh’s fishing boat near the shore has spent more time lying on the shore than fishing.

Adverse impacts on coastal seafood resources

According to the fishermen, fishing near the shore has become more difficult after the waters of Bac Lieu became a place where many boats and boats used fishing gears to destroy seafood (such as bagua nets, rake boats, etc.) from friend provinces gather. The reason is that those localities have begun to prohibit all types of destructive fishing at sea.

This situation is even more tragic after a series of wind power poles near the shore stretch out to sea. According to Mr. Binh, in the past, people lived very comfortably, a year they could go to the sea to catch fish for 6 months according to the season. In the morning, going to the sea and going to the sea in the afternoon, they could get 1-3 million VND. Now, the time to go to the sea to fish is halved, some people only get 1-2 months/year, sometimes they get 200-300 thousand dong, sometimes they lose money on oil.

Fisherman Vuong Van Quang in Nha Mat ward, Bac Lieu city, beside his fishing boat near the shore. Since the beginning of this year, he has only been to the sea for a month and does not know when he will continue to go to the sea. Photo: Le Quynh 

The reality shows that the fishing ground of nearshore fisheries is not only narrowed by nearshore wind power, but it also causes many concerns for coastal ecosystems. Mr. Huynh Chuong, the leader of the floating net group in Vinh Thinh commune, said that most of the people in Bac Lieu make nets according to the State’s regulations and follow the water. So when the fishing grounds are dwindling, they almost have to give up their jobs.

People here catch seasonal fish, starting from November to December of the lunar calendar, and from the first half of May to August of the lunar calendar. Through the Tet season, in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th lunar months, and the 8th, 9th and 10th lunar seasons, when the south wind be going to change to the northeast wind, the wind changes direction, so the sea is calm, it will be the season for fish to spawn on the shore. . “At this time, we don’t go fishing anymore, but let the fish grow,” said Mr. Chuong.

However, with his experience, long-time fishermen like Mr. Chuong said that he was worried that wind power had changed the flow, causing fish and shrimp to no longer enter the spawning area. The proof is that since the day wind power was introduced, including the cause of the bagua, the fishing boat, many types of seafood have been reduced, such as the small squid that is no longer found.

In Bien Dong A hamlet, Vinh Trach Dong commune, Bac Lieu city, the wind power area near Bac Lieu coast and mangroves, is the place where Khmer people have lived for generations. Starting operation in May 2013, Bac Lieu wind power phase 1 and 2 is the first coastal wind power plant in Vietnam with a scale of 62 wind turbines and a total capacity of 99.2 MW. From the time of operation until March 2020, this wind farm has contributed 1 billion kWh to the national electricity grid. Wind power tourism was also born accordingly, welcoming about 200,000 visitors per year (data in 2019). But the livelihood of the Khmer people who are dependent on coastal livelihoods is more precarious than before.

Mr. Eng Do, 53 years old, born and grown up in the East Sea, said that since wind power was introduced, the number of small goby fish in the mangroves has decreased. Most of Mr. Do’s income comes from catching small goby fish or selling fish eggs to hatcheries. When there was no wind power, a day Mr. Do could earn 800,000 to 1 million VND. After nearly 10 years, earnings have less more than halved. Mr. Do explained that it was not cause because the people caught them, but because there were not as many fish as before.

Talking with Người Đô Thị, Dr. Vu Ngoc Long, former director of the Southern Institute of Ecology, said the coastal area of ​​Bac Lieu is a place with very rich natural resources, with fry’s eggs of many species. Poor people living in the coastal areas often sell their scales to the breeding areas. This is a fairly high source of income for Khmer people. However, the amount of fry’s eggs and the fry has now decreased much, according to Dr. Long, wind power is also one of the reasons.

Bac Lieu wind farm phase 1 and 2 in Nha Mat ward and Vinh Trach Dong commune, Bac Lieu city is located close to mangrove forest. This wind power project has been operating for 10 years. Photo: Chi Quoc

Dr. Long explained, in terms of ecological laws and impacts, when building wind power projects under the soft sand/soft shore/shallow sea areas of the Mekong Delta, it will definitely change the flow, change the accumulation silt and humus/mud accumulation. Plankton often follows warmer currents to get food from within the shore. When the flow changes, the amount of plankton is also less, the eggs of fry, eggs of all species and seed are also reduced, leading to a decrease in the number of small fish.

This fact is not only true for Bac Lieu. According to Dr. Long, coastal livelihoods, such as sources of eggs, fry, clam seed, goby fry, small crustaceans shrimp, crabs, molluscs… are a great source of income for people in coastal provinces such as Bac Lieu, Soc Moon, Tra Vinh, Ben Tre… On the coastal shelf of the Mekong Delta, mobile alluvium pulls aquatic resources along with the alluvium of the rivers flowing out. So the breeds will appear in each coastal province in turn according to each season, not the same. People have experience according to which they make a living and eat according to the country.

“However, because wind power near the shore changes the natural law of the shoreline, changes the salinity, the flow, the source of species of species along the shore, along the mangroves gradually decreases, or there is not much concentration, so it not only has a great impact on the livelihoods of coastal communities, which are mostly poor, but also can negatively affect the source of aquatic species in the sea”, Dr. Long commented.

Danger with mangroves

Mangroves are one of the important ecosystems of the coastal area. According to the Bac Lieu Coastal Protective Special-Use Forest Management Board, the province currently has 4,560 hectares of special-use and protection forests located outside the province’s sea-dyke line. The planning area of ​​forest land in Bac Lieu up to 2030 is about 7,500 ha, of which nearly 3,000 ha of forest will be added in the future to be the coastal alluvial area for forest planting and development.

Talking to us, a member of the forest management board said that according to the fact that in recent months, there has been an area that was previously eroded and now started to recover after wind power, such as the commune area. Dien Hai, Dong Hai district. He hopes this is a good sign for the possibility of planting more forests in this area. However, this is only an initial assessment, it is necessary to follow up for about 5 years to clearly see the possibility of stable alluvium or not.

Bac Lieu wind farm phase 1 and 2 in Nha Mat ward and Vinh Trach Dong commune, Bac Lieu city is located close to mangrove forest. Photo: Chi Quoc

Dr. Truong Van Vinh, Deputy Head of the Faculty of Forestry, Nong Lam University, Ho Chi Minh City, said that monitoring the stability of the sediment in the wind power area is necessary before proposing afforestation. Alluvial flats tend to be positively stabilized, then there can be suitable afforestation solutions. What is lacking now is the multi-sectoral linkage, it is necessary to combine geological and meteorological observations to have sufficient information for effective afforestation, especially in the fact that there is wind power near the shore today.

Dr. Vu Ngoc Long recommends that wind power near the shore can create accretion in one area, but will cause landslides in other areas according to natural laws (if there is an alluvial place, there will be another landslide). It should also be noted that the condition of mangroves is not forever accreted. Dr. Long believes that wind power cannot create accretion forever, it only changes for a period of time, but later it is lost, because the entire coastal area of ​​the East Sea and the Mekong Delta is a rough and soft sea (moving, today there are floating, sinking later), not fixed.

The current situation of landslides in the East Sea of ​​the Mekong Delta is one of the very serious risks in the whole region. The mudflats disappear, the mangroves also drift to the sea, we lose the protective cloak of nature. “Not to mention, wind power near the shore can also negatively affect migratory birds because the coastal area of ​​the Mekong Delta is also a migratory bird field to feed a lot,” said Dr. Long said.

Should wind power develop near shore? 

Boldly refusing to build a cluster of coal-fired power plants in Cai Cung (Dong Hai district) with a total capacity of up to 3,600 MW according to the previous Power Plan 7, Bac Lieu chose to develop into a clean energy center, giving priority to the renewable energy industry, especially wind power. Currently, the entire 56km coastline of Bac Lieu is almost covered with wind power projects near the shore.

In just the past 2 years, Bac Lieu has installed 100 wind turbines both at sea and on land, with a total capacity of 370 MW connected to the national grid, nearly twice the number of turbines and more than three times the number of turbines. times the wind power capacity of the previous 10 years combined.

Information from Bac Lieu Department of Industry and Trade shows that the province currently has 8 nearshore wind power projects out of 10 wind power projects that have been and are being invested in the whole province, accounting for 82% of the province’s total wind power capacity (540.2). MW/660.2 MW). Of which, 6 projects have been put into operation and 2 projects are under construction.

Source: Bac Lieu Department of Industry and Trade

Exploiting coastal alluvial areas to create renewable energy. But the reality shows that wind power near the shore is at risk of causing many consequences for coastal ecosystems and livelihoods, near-shore waters.

Talking to Người Đô Thị, the representative of Bac Lieu Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the unit that has approved wind power projects in the province recently admitted that “the impact of electricity has not been fully assessed and cannot be assessed.” nearshore winds to the project area ecosystem and related areas and issues”. He said that before, when consulting experts and superior units, wind power is still too new, there have not been many in-depth studies on the impacts of wind power on the ecosystem.

Mr. Ngo Nguyen Phong, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Bac Lieu province, said that the current policy of the province is not to license more fishing boats near the shore and gradually reduce fishing near the shore. The Department is studying and proposing career change options for coastal fishing households, this is also to avoid the extinction of aquatic resources due to unsustainable fishing. However, according to Mr. Phong, the province’s resources are difficult, so it is not known when this policy will be implemented. Data from the Department shows that nearly 60% of the province’s fishing boats are close to shore. This means that a high percentage of local fishing people’s livelihoods will be affected by wind power.

In fact, Vietnam has soon established a list of nearshore wind power projects, especially in the Mekong Delta region, south of Ho Chi Minh City. These projects are considered as a stepping stone between onshore and offshore wind power. However, the Report “Offshore Wind Power Roadmap for Vietnam” published by the World Bank (WB) in June 2021 recommends that wind power development in nearshore areas has a high risk of causing impacts bad for the environment and society. Some of the reasons include: the presence of animals listed in the Red Book in coastal areas; these areas are close to protected or sensitive habitats; potential impact on coastal sediment dynamics; potential impacts on coastal communities, especially on the livelihoods of collectors.

“It is best not to do coastal wind power. Flows must be avoided, especially away from estuary areas because they obstruct the flow from the inside out, which is the exchange of land with the sea. Instead, it is to do offshore wind power”, Dr. Vu Ngoc Long suggested.

Sharing the same opinion, Ph.D Nguyen Xuan Huy, an energy expert, Faculty of Geoengineering and Petroleum Engineering, Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, said that the Mekong Delta in particular and Vietnam in general should focus on developing offshore wind power which will be more useful because reduce noise and vibration frequency affecting the growth habits of animals and plants. The advantages of offshore wind farms are high wind speed, available space, little impact on the ecological environment and especially avoiding conflicts of interest with coastal communities and other stakeholders. current use of the sea, such as the military field, shipping, fishing and island tourism. In addition, offshore wind farms will be a defense and security shield for the interior of Vietnam’s waters.

At the Vietnam offshore wind conference organized by the Institute of Energy and the Global Wind Energy Council in June this year, Mr. Bernard Casey, CEO of APAC said he was concerned about the installation of many wind power projects (near shore – PV) in the Mekong Delta with the current distance too close will affect the project capacity. There will be projects that receive less energy than designed. “In the UK, we have built projects at least 50 kilometers apart. This is an important planning lesson,” said Mr. Bernard.

Ph.D Nguyen Xuan Huy believes that the development and use of clean energy is an inevitable trend of the times. However, it is necessary to have a specific roadmap to transition in a reasonable and harmonious way to ensure sustainable development.

Lê Quỳnh

Source: nguoidothi.net.vn