This paper draws on legal documents, policy analyses, secondary data collection, and primary empirical data on dam construction on the Đà [Black] River to highlight uneven power and development both between Vietnam's lowlands and uplands and within its upland areas. It examines how the Northwest's ecological, cultural and agrarian landscapes have been shaped by state development policies and, in turn, how outcomes have contributed—if at all—to reshaping state policy. The paper also explores real and calculated costs of hydropower to examine accounting practices and how project costs are distributed among stakeholders.

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