99-year-old grandmother stands up to Vietnam’s coal rush


Toothless and nearly blind, grandmother Pham Thi Ca refuses to leave her plot of land even after bulldozers demolished her house an extraordinary holdout against communist Vietnam’s deepening addiction to coal.

The 99-year-old was offered money to move as authorities hoovered up land for a planned $2.6 billion Japanese-funded coal plant in the remote Van Phong Bay she has called home since birth.

But when she said no, around 100 authorities showed up, forcibly removed her from the house and bulldozed it as she and her grandson looked on.They were helpless to prevent the destruction of the property two years ago, but Ca, frail and wizened, has rebuffed all attempts to evict her from the land since.

“The authorities carried me away, but I refuse to move,” explains Ca, who now lives in a makeshift shelter of corrugated tin, wooden beams and coconut fronds next to the pile of rubble that was once her home.

“My house is here, my land is here, so I will be buried here,” she tells AFP, sitting on a small cot where she spends much of her time.

It’s a story playing out across Vietnam, where a strong-fisted government is powering ahead with coal projects to meet the soaring energy demands of a turbo-charged economy.

Coal accounts for about a third of Vietnam’s current energy production and is slated to rise to about 50 per cent by 2030.

That means building more coal plants in places like Van Phong Bay despite a chorus of opposition from locals who complain of land grabs, loss of livelihood and environmental damage.

Some 300 people have already been relocated from Ca’s community in south-central Khanh Hoa province.

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