Bui Van Kien, deputy director general of the National Power Transmission Corporation (EVNNPT) under Vietnam Electricity (EVN), talks about the risks of falling behind schedule on the North-South 500kV power line in the central region.
Installation of a power tower in Hoa Vang District, Da Nang, part of Circuit 3 of the North-South 500kV power transmission line.
Circuit 3 (Vung Ang-Quang Trach-Doc Soi-Pleiku 2) of the 500kV power line is meant to ensure energy security in the southern region. Construction is entering a critical phase but is facing adverse factors due to factors outside of human control. Can you tell us about these problems?
Circuit 3 is 742km long with 1,606 transmission towers. Ground for 1,544 towers – or 96 per cent – has already been cleared for construction.
However, only 65 per cent of the area for safety zones required around these towers has been cleared.
The Government aims to have the project completed by December this year, but slow compensation settlements during ground clearance and the COVID-19 pandemic have severely set back the progress of the project.
Two waves of COVID-19 have hit in Vietnam, with the second centred in Da Nang and central localities back in August where many components of the project were being carried out. Local governments focused all their resources to fight the disease making compensation settlements no longer a priority during that time. Our personnel in charge of this issue also had to comply with social distancing measures and strict quarantine protocols, while transportation of materials and equipment and deployment of workers were also difficult.
The complicated COVID-19 pandemic situation in Europe, India, and China has forced many of our suppliers and contractors to delay their deliveries or cancel plans to bring experts to Vietnam to supervise the installation. Needless to say, the project has suffered serious setbacks.
Since early October, successive tropical typhoons and inclement weather have brought heavy downpours and severe floods to the central region, which has again hampered compensation efforts being made by local authorities. Contractors have had to put construction on hold, while floods threaten to damage components that have already been built. After this bad weather season ends, we will fully assess the damage to the project, but I think the extent of the impacts will be quite significant.
How have these factors affected the progress of the project compared to the original schedule?
As per our estimates, the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Vietnam in early 2020 slowed us down by about three months, from February to around late April. The second wave set us back about two months.
Delays to overseas equipment being delivered have cost us another three months.
As I have mentioned, the scope of the damage caused by the historic flooding in the central region is not yet fully known, as new storms are still expected to hit the region in the weeks ahead, but a setback of at least two months is our current projection.
What has EVNNPT attempted to do to get the project back on track in face of these external challenges?
We have directed the Central Vietnam Power Projects Management Board (CMPB) to set up detailed plans on all components, from compensation settlements and equipment to machinery supplies and installation in order to closely supervise progress and facilitate components that are stuck. Mobile teams have also been set up to deal with on-site problems as soon as possible.
We are also regularly reporting to the Government, the Ministry of Industry and Trade and EVN on matters related to the project, and maximising support from the central Government for local administrations to address any difficulties we might be facing.
EVNNPT has asked contractors to increase the number of workers and construction equipment being used to build the towers where ground clearance has yet to be completed to speed up their construction and install the power lines as close to the original schedule as possible.
What does EVNNPT want the Government to do to ensure the project is completed on time?
Given the current progress of compensation settlements, we want the Government to issue an order asking people’s committees in the affected areas to focus their efforts on resolving standing issues related to compensation and ground clearance.
District-level authorities should hold meetings with affected households to shore up their support and ask for their understanding, and of course, we ask that local governments consider enforcement measures including protecting construction sites and forced evictions so the project can cross the finish line as soon as possible. VNS
The problems arising during site clearance and the lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic have led to the slow implementation of the 500KV transmission line circuit 3 project.