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Son La, the pearl of North-western Vietnam

Son means mountain and La means stream. Son La Province originates from a stream on a mountain. Through 110 years of development since its founding, the stream is still running around 12 fraternal ethnicities who have created great strength, making the province a shining pearl in the North- western region of the country.

Visiting the work of the century

Son La hydroelectric-power work lies upstream on the Da River in It Ong Commune of Muong La District, about 250 km away from the Hoa Binh hydroelectric-power station. With an average electricity output of 10.2 billion KWh per year, it is the biggest hydroelectric-power plant in Southeast Asia. After only six months of construction, the cadres and workers of Song Da Construction Company (LICOGI) have built 120 km of new roads, three bridges over the Da River at the construction site area and the Muong La Port Complex, using more than 80,000 cubic metres of concrete. These facilities have been put to use, serving the transport of materials and equipment.

From It Ong Commune, we had a complete view of the work. At the construction site, over 5,000 workers and huge equipment are working hectically around the clock. Vu Duc Thin, Deputy General Director of Vietnam Electricity Corporation and Head of the Management Board of Son La Hydroelectric-power Project, said most of the engineers and workers on the construction site had participated in building Hoa Binh, Ialy and Song Hinh hydroelectric-power stations, so they were technically skilled and capable of solving any problem. With three working shifts a day now, the damming of the Da River can be completed at the end of November 2005, well ahead of schedule and before the floods come. This is the first hydro-electric project of the country, where the building of the plant and the damming of the river have been carried out simultaneously. Previously, the plant construction started one to two years before river damming.

Other supporting facilities, such as the mechanical centre, the steel-frame workshop, the concrete mixing station and the assembly complex, are located around the construction site to provide the most effective services to the project.

All for the electricity of tomorrow

When Son La hydroelectric-power project started, 18,600 households in the area had to move to a new place. VND 10,300 billion out of the VND 37,000 billion investment in the project have been spent on resettlement. Most of the households in this area are poor and have a per capita income of only VND 2.5 million per year. Under the resettlement policy, the annual income of each resident will increase to VND 20 million. This resettlement policy, the best in the country is not inferior to that of other countries in the region for a similar project. An area of 224 sq. kilometres with cultiva-ted land and many cultural relics was submerged. In return, the Province has the conditions to  replan its production and life. In the dry season, the Province is no longer influenced by the Southwest wind. Its climate becomes cool that forms a climatic sub-region in the neighbouring provinces of Dien Bien and Lai Chau, very favourable for vegetation development. In addition, the waterway transport system will be expanded. During the five month-long dry season, 200-tonne ships can navigate from Hai Phong City through Hoa Binh Province to Son La and arrive at Lai Chau Wharf. More importantly, the reservoir will help prevent floods in the rainy season and store water for Hanoi Capital and the whole northern delta region in the dry season.

Developing the local industry

To support the project, the industrial establishments in Son La Province are working at full capacity. Lying at the foot of Chieng Sinh Mountain in Son La Township, the brick plant with more than 200 employees, who work three shifts a day, produces  30 million bricks a year. The plant’s Director, Quan Van Chien, said: “All bricks are sold out even though the capacity has increased to 30 million from 20 million bricks a year. The plant is renovating the technology to raise its output and the product quality to meet the demand of the local construction industry”. Together with the brick plant, Chieng Sinh Cement Plant is shifting to use a blast furnace instead of the rotary furnace in production of cement, thus increasing its output by 10 times (100,000 tonnes).

Raising the people’s knowledge is one of the top priorities of Son La Province. For this purpose, Son La Teachers’ College has opened 12 disciplines, including not only the basic but also new ones, such as agricultural and household economics. The College also organises training courses to improve the management skills of the cadres at different levels.

When Ta Sa-Mai Son Industrial Park is established in 2008, handicrafts and cottage industries will develop and craft villages and traditional occupations will be restored. With the establishment of Muong La urban centre, many towns will be upgraded and Son La City will come into being with a more beautiful image.

Son La Province:

Area: 14,210 sq. km.
Population: 868,400.
Ethnic groups: The Dao, Xinh Mun, Kho Mu, Khang, La Ha, Viet and Muong.
Administrative units: Son La Town and nine districts including Quynh Nhai, Muong La, Thuan Chau, Phu Yen, Bac Yen, Mai Son, Song Ma, Yen Chau and Moc Chau.
Geography: Son La Province is located in North-western Vietnam on Highway 6, about 308 km away from Hanoi Capital. It borders on Yen Bai and Lao Cai Provinces in the North, Lai Chau Province in the West, Thanh Hoa and Hoa Binh Provinces in the Southeast and the country of Laos in the South.
Topography: With mountains and high lands, an abundant system of rivers and streams and rich water resource, for development of hydroelectric power industry, with favourable conditions for development of cow raising, mulberry-growing, silkworms-raising, coffee, tea and fruit-tree cultivation as well as the mining, agricultural and forestry product-processing industries.
Climate: Average temperature of 21 0C with tropical monsoon.
Traffic system:  With roads, waterways and airway (Na San Airport)

Vietnam Pictorial - (28/04/2006)

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