THE VIETNAMESE CABINET HAS approved the construction of a 215m high hydroelectric dam that would generate up to 2400MW. Although the reservoir impounded by the dam would force the relocation of up to 90,000 people, the proposed project is a slightly scaled down version of the original plan to build a 265m high dam at the same site.

The proposal sparked an acrimonious debate in the country’s national assembly. MPs postponed a vote against the government plans in March this year criticising the human and environmental costs. If the national assembly approves the smaller hydroelectric dam in December, construction could begin in 2005 and take up to 15 years.

The proposed dam is to be built in the Muong La district of the northeastern province of Son La. The region is prone to earthquakes – another factor that has worried some MPs.