Report: Assessment on the Socio-Economic Impacts of Hydro-Power Resettlement Projects on Ethnic Minorities


Mekong Development Research Institute (MDRI) consultants including Dr. Tran Van Thuat, Dr. Nguyen Viet Cuong, Dr. Bui Xuan Du, Dr. Phung Duc Tung and Do Thu Trang.



Along with increasing number of hydropower projects and the Government guidelines about the crucial role of hydropower in economic development in the coming years, it is essential to conduct research on socio-economic impact of hydropower projects on affected households, especially those of ethnic minority groups. In-depth studies on these issues can bring about meaningful contributions for policy makers toward more reasonable and effective support policies and programs for affected communities. While there have been many researches on the impact of hydropower projects on the lives of affected communities, many aspects have been neglected. First, research on people’s participation in the process of planning and developing compensation and resettlement support mechanism is limited and unclear. In reality, the process of land reclamation, resettlement site construction as well as compensation support result in notable conflicts within affected community. This is reflected through the increasing number of grievances. Though existing legal documents properly regulate the authority and obligations of both investment owners and affected households, there remains a literature gap on how responsible agencies address communities’ feedback as well as on the influence of the people’s opinions on the decision-making process.

Second, hydropower projects are often built in mountainous areas which are mainly accommodated by ethnic minorities making them the most vulnerable group in these projects’ construction and operation. Ethnic minorities are usually characterized by poor development indicators: high poverty rate, backward living conditions, limited livelihood diversification, low adaptability towards shocks. Nevertheless, there is still lack of study on the impact of displacement and resettlement process on ethnic minority groups, especially its impact on life settlement and sustainable development. Current research has yet analyzed the adaption process of resettled households in new living conditions, and livelihood restoration activities in the long term. In addition, the effects of the relocation process on spiritual values and traditional culture of the affected community have neither been addressed in existing policies and studies.

Third, current research has not adequately examined a number of issues related to post-resettlement policies, implementation of resettlement policies as well as full assessment of affected communities’ life at resettlement sites. Therefore, this socio-economic impact assessment of hydropower project resettlement would focus on issues that are missing in existing research. This study will go to review the current situation of displacement, resettlement issues of hydropower projects, and the post-resettlement lives of affected households, especially ethnic minority groups. Three main issues addressed in this research include:

People’s participation, especially ethnic minority communities, in the decision-making process
Socio-economic, cultural and environmental impacts of hydropower projects on relocated ethnic minority groups and host communities. Situation assessment of post-resettlement life
Policy implications to revise existing policies in order to empower grass-root level in the decision-making process as well as to implement better support for affected households to achieve a sustainable life
The report includes three main parts. The first part reviews legal documents and support policies for displacement and resettlement, particularly in hydropower projects. The second part provides analysis on the current situation of displacement and resettlement in hydropower projects based on secondary sources and case studies of three hydropower projects, representing the Northern and Central region of Vietnam which are considered as the “hydropower hot spot”. The third chapter identifies gaps in support and resettlement policies of hydropower projects in order to provide adequate policy recommendations.