Dong Nai wants highway diverted away from biosphere reserve

By Phuoc Tuan   April 14, 2022 | 05:57 pm PT
Dong Nai wants highway diverted away from biosphere reserve
Aerial view of the Dong Nai Culture and Nature Reserve. Photo by VnExpress/Phuoc Tuan
The southern Dong Nai Province wants the central government to adjust the plan for a national highway section running through the province saying it will encroach a UNESCO recognized biosphere.

Towards this, the provincial administration has requested the Dong Nai Culture and Nature Reserve and other relevant agencies to provide their opinions on the planning for the 13C National Highway and the Ma Da Bridge.

This follows Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh’s request that the Ministry of Transport and local authorities finalize plans to build the Ma Da Bridge and upgrade the existing DT 753 road into the 13C National Highway.

The plan, a proposal by Binh Phuoc Province, will connect it with the Long Thanh International Airport and the Cai Mep-Thi Vai deep-water port.

But Dong Nai is now seeking opinions from relevant authorities to consider a readjustment to the plan for the 13C National Highway. If the highway is constructed as planned, there would be a 40 km section through the nature reserve, which would be incompatible with existing international treaties, said reserve director Nguyen Hoang Hao.

"The construction of the Ma Da Bridge through the forest would go against a directive of the nature reserve, which is to limit people going through it in order to protect the forest and its biodiversity," Hao said, adding that if construction goes ahead as planned, it would impact protection of existing forests and ecosystems of many endangered species.

In a document sent to the Dong Nai People’s Committee, the nature reserve said the national highway would also be problematic for the conservation of three historical sites in the area.

The reserve has proposed that provincial authorities seek opinions from UNESCO and the Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO about construction of the 13C National Highway that would run through the reserve as per current plan.

The Dong Nai Department of Transport said the 13C National Highway plan aims to develop infrastructure and connect localities in southeast Vietnam. However, as the road would run through a nature reserve, the province is yet to finalize the plan and is requesting adjustments.

This isn't the first time Dong Nai has expressed concern over a transportation project impacting its biosphere reserve.

A project to upgrade the DT 753 road and build the Ma Da Bridge, initiated by Binh Phuoc, had to be suspended because Dong Nai disagreed with it.

Dong Nai has also blocked roads and banned ferries from certain river sections out of concern they would affect the nature reserve.

The Dong Nai Culture and Nature Reserve, spanning over 100,000 ha, is part of the Truong Son ecosystem. It was named a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2011.

Dong Nai has the largest forest coverage in southeast Vietnam at 169,000 ha, inclusive of "special-use forests, protective forests and planted forest."

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