The Dong Nai dams no. 6 and 6a, located on the Dong Nai River, were planned as part of a series of dams proposed to cover Vietnam’s growing demand for energy. However, the Dong Nai River has always been a crucial source of water and life for the surrounding villages and ecosystems, such as the Cat Tien National Park, which received UNESCO’s recognition as a Biopshere Reserve Zone in 2011.
Being a unique place of historical richness and cultural tradition, providing home to more than 1,700 species of rare plants and 700 bird and mammals species, many of them endangered, the The Cat Tien National Park is one of the six biggest biosphere reserves in the world [1;2].
During the recent years, the park was under threat to lose its status as National Park, due to the planned construction of the two hydropower stations. Expected impacts beyond those generally associated to large-scale hydropower (i.e., changing hydrological dynamics, loss of riparian ecosystems, blocking of fish migration routes, loss of aquatic species and habitat, displacement of locals, decreasing water quality, etc.) included the destruction of 327 ha of forest land, 128 of which were located in the Cat Tien National Park. Moreover, the large changes in the associated wetland ecosystems would also negatively affect the Bau Sau (Crocodile Lake) located inside the park, which had received international recognition through the Ramsar convention [1;2;3].
The fundamental concerns regarding the environmental impacts led several national groups, i.e., the Vietnam River Network, to pressure the government to stop the projects [1;4]. National experts warned that the dams would violate the law on Biological diversity and that it lacked approval from the National Assembly . Also international pressure increased, when in 2012, the national committee for UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme urged the government to stop the projects . In a meeting in May, 2013, the World Heritage Committee refused to recognize the site as Natural World Heritage, due to the environmental threats posed by the dam construction, as well as due to other issues, such as presence of quarries and illegal hunting .
The growing pressure and complains over the large impacts motivated the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment to conduct an assessment study, which confirmed the negative consequences. In response to the Ministry’s report, the increasing national and international concerns, and the strong support and demands from Dong Nai authorities to halt the projects , the Prime Minister finally asked the Ministry of Industry and Trade to remove the dams from the list of planned hydropower stations in late 2013 [1;2;5;].
Thanks to the effective lobbying processes at the local, national and international level from civil society groups, independent experts and governmental actors, environmental justice could thus be served to a unique ecological, social and cultural region.