Sand mining ban needed to rescue Hoi An from watery grave: experts

By VnExpress   May 27, 2017 | 12:00 am GMT+7
Sand mining ban needed to rescue Hoi An from watery grave: experts
Tourists lie on bags of sand, used to curb sea erosion at Cua Dai. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

Authorities are urged to act now to save the town's beautiful beaches.

Experts have urged authorities in Quang Nam Province to ban sand mining in a bid to protect the popular tourist town of Hoi An from erosion, local newspapers reported.

At a two-day conference that started on Thursday, nearly 100 Vietnamese and foreign experts discussed the threat of erosion that has been engulfing the 8-km (5-mile) coastline of the UNESCO-recognized World Heritage Site.

The historic town plays a vital role in the province's economic development and is famous among tourists around the world.

Erosion has eaten into 10-15 meters of land along a 2-km stretch of Hoi An's sandy beach, a problem largely caused by falling river sediment, sand mining and strong waves, provincial officials and a research group said at the conference.

Authorities should impose a ban on all forms of sand mining along Thu Bon River and around Cua Dai Beach, Quang Nam newspaper quoted Dr. Nguyen Kim Dan from the Saint Venant Hydraulic Laboratory, a France-based research unit, as saying. 

A 6,500-meter embankment should be built along the coast to mitigate the impacts of big waves and reduce erosion, Dan said.

The group's report showed that more than half of the sediment to Cua Dai is being held up by two hydropower reservoirs located upstream the Thu Bon River.

It also found that a higher number of sand mining operations, along with the construction of buildings near the coastline, have deviated sea currents and pushed the sediment further south, reducing the volume that holds the north of the beach together.

A change in wave patterns and the increasing number of high waves in recent years have also contributed to the issue, the report said.

The project implemented by Dan's group has received endorsement from the French government, which agreed to finance nearly EUR300,000 ($335,000) in addition to VND5 billion ($220,000) pledged by Quang Nam.

In 2014, strong waves demolished the concrete embankment on Cua Dai Beach and ate into nearly 200 meters of land along a three-kilometer stretch of coastline. Scientists blamed the upstream hydropower plants for blocking the sediment.

Local authorities have since then spent around VND70 billion to build a new embankment, installing iron pilings and pumping sand into the area to revive Cua Dai, although it will take another year to see if enough has been done to save the beach, officials said.

The investment by Vietnamese and French authorities is the latest development in the revival process of Cua Dai. Bertrand Lortholary, French Ambassador to Vietnam, told the Sai Gon Giai Phong daily that the French government regards Hoi An as one of the world's cultural heritage sites and pledged to help the Vietnamese government protect the town's iconic beach.

Lortholary said he would call for funding from other sources to build a system of mangroves to protect the coastline.

More tourists have been returning to Cua Dai Beach in recent years as it slowly recovers from the erosion that robbed the beach of its sand and visitors for nearly three years.

While some are taken by surprise by the rejuvenated seafront, many admit that they are still haunted by the fierce waves crashing onto the shore and threatening to breach hotels and restaurants.