ĐÀ NẴNG — The administration of the central city of Đà Nẵng has failed to comply with the Prime Minister’s request for detailed plans to resolve the clash between the need to preserve the Sơn Trà Nature Reserve and the accelerated tourism development at the site, former and current officials say.
The Việt Nam National Tourism Administration has announced a plan to “develop” the 4,439ha nature reserve as a national tourism site and an upmarket ecotour resort complex by 2030, including 1,920 villas, 24 bungalows and 1,600 luxury hotel rooms to accommodate 300,000 tourists.
At two scientific conferences held in April and July by the city’s tourism association and the Centre of Biodiversity Conservation, GreenViet, scientists raised their concerns about potential damage to the Sơn Trà Mountain on the Sơn Trà Peninsula.
On August 29, the city sent the Prime Minister a seven-page report on current tourism and resort projects, but did not mention issues of biodiversity, environmental protection, and defence and security, as requested by the PM, said Bùi Công Dụng, former deputy head of Quảng Nam Provincial Office.
The Prime Minister had asked the Đà Nẵng City’s People’s Committee to clear up the Sơn Trà Master Plan and ensure it complied fully in terms of laws on forest and environment protection, biodiversity conservation, defence and security, as well as legal related regulations.
According to Dụng, the city’s report on the Sơn Trà Tourism Master Plan did not include any information relating to the 2004 law on forest protection and the 2008 law on biodiversity conservation. He explained that the two articles ban all land-use changes in the nature reserve, and all forest land-use changes or forest land encroachment.
He said under the forest law, any change of land-use purpose in the Sơn Trà forest must be decided by the Prime Minister.
The reserve, which had already shrunk from 4,439ha to 2,500ha to accommodate resorts and hotels between 1977 and 2014, would have to give up another 1,056ha more for the new luxury tourism complex.
Up to now, 18 out of 25 hotels and resorts on the Sơn Trà Mountain have been approved by the city on a total of 1,220ha.
Claims of ’cheating’
According to the city’s report, six projects will be changed into eco-tour sites, and the city adjusted plan for buildings from 200m to 100m above sea level, but the city did not include a plan of development for 137 private villas on 2.4ha.
Deputy head of the city’s administration office, Nguyễn Thành Tiến, said a detailed report on the private villas in the reserve will be sent to the Prime Minister later. Tiến said investors had paid land taxes worth nearly VNĐ700 billion (nearly US$31 million) on a total of 90ha between 2003-12.
Chairman of the Đà Nẵng City Tourism Association, Huỳnh Tấn Vinh, who had sent a petition to Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc asking for changes to the Sơn Trà Master Plan, said the city’s report was very general, but it did not offer a solution to resolve the conflicting interests of economic growth and forest protection.
Hồ Duy Diệm, 80, who was head of the planning department of Quảng Nam-Đà Nẵng (now Đà Nẵng and Quảng Nam) between 1975-2003, said at least 20 private villas out of 137 villas had already been built in the reserve. He said the city cheated with the adjustment of buildings in the Sơn Trà Nature Reserve from 200m to 100m above sea level.
Nearly 200 scientists, biologists and conservationists agreed to petition the PM to stop construction of new buildings.
The reserve, 10km away from Đà Nẵng along the coast, was unique in Việt Nam and the world, with its biodiversity ranging from primary forests to ocean dunes, with more than 1,000 plants and 370 animal species.
More than 1,300 red-shanked douc langurs (Pygathryx nemaeus), which are critically endangered and found only in east-central Laos and Việt Nam, live in the Sơn Trà Nature Reserve.