Experts call for conservation measures for forthcoming beach resort in Vietnam

By Pham Linh   April 29, 2018 | 04:00 am PT
The new project in Quang Ngai Province might leave people without access to the sea and collide with a geopark plan.
A man walks along coracles along a beach in Quang Ngai Province. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

A man walks along coracles along a beach in Quang Ngai Province. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

A resort project which has received lightning-fast approval in the central province of Quang Ngai has raised concerns among locals and experts that it will pose threats to fishing life and the environment.

Many people demanded an explanation at a meeting with the authorities on Friday as the project was greenlighted while those living in the affected area had not been informed.

The Binh Chau-Ly Son Resort and Urban Area Complex Project by Vietnamese real estate giant FLC, covering Binh Chau coast area and Ly Son Island, was proposed to provincial authorities in early March.

Just over a month later, the province's chairman Tran Ngoc Cang issued an urgent directive requesting "the entire political system" to accompany the investor in carrying out the project.

Quang Ngai People's Committee then demanded that site clearance be conducted in time for FLC to start construction on May 19 and requested VND500 billion ($22 million) from its budget to compensate affected people before the project was even officially approved.

Cang also ordered to move a border guard station and to restrict roadway to the coast to one every eight kilometers (five miles), which raised concerns that the project would encroach onto land used for national defense and block locals' access to the sea.

According to Colonel Do Ngoc Nam, Commander of the Border Guards of Quang Ngai province, the relocation of the board guard post in Binh Son District is actually not a new decision. This issue was proposed by Quang Ngai Border Guards two years ago when it was within the boundaries of another project. The border post stands in an "unfavorable" location which is narrow and too close to the sea, he said.

"According to the defense ministry, the area for a border post must be from 3-5 hectares, but the area of this station is only about 7,000 square meters with difficult access to roads and scarcity of water, so it must be relocated. The move does not affect the defensive area," Nam said.

FLC's proposed resort project spans over many of Quang Ngai's beautiful beaches and the almost pristine Be Island. The group plans to relocate more than 1,100 families to reclaim more than 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) of land, which include 184 hectares of rice fields, 55 hectares of protection forests and one hectare of national defense land.

On a field in Binh Hai Commune that FLC is planning to turn into a golf course, local farmers are still busy planting the year's first crop of red onions, their main source of income besides farming.

The announcement of the incoming project has left many worried that with their fields taken over and their path to the sea shut down, they would have no way to make a living.

According to Quang Ngai's investment department, the new project would overlap with nine others already approved, including a key project to develop the Binh Chau-Ly Son area into a UNESCO geopark by the end of the year.

Environment concerns

Geological experts said the planned geopark contains unique geological formations created by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. Archaeologically, Quang Ngai's coastal area is also the cradle of the Sa Huynh, an ancient culture that flourished between 1000 BC and 200 AD.

Tran Tan Van, director of the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources, said the resort should wait for an environmental impact assessment report to inspect how much it would affect the area.

Van said such a report would take a year.

In an attempt to reassure the residents, Quang Ngai's Party chief Le Viet Chu said at the Friday meeting that the province in fact has yet to make a final decision. Chu promised to prioritize the interests of the people.

The provincial Party unit has issued instructions to remove a famous beach and the Be Island from the project's planning. Local authorities have also been tasked with ensuring that historical sites and natural attractions are protected, and that locals would not be blocked from the sea, Chu said.

Earlier this month, the investor of a so-called ecotourism project in the nearby Da Nang was ordered to pull down sections of a long metal fence that blocked residents of the 700-year-old Nam O Village from the sea, an act that received widespread media reports and raised public uproar.

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