Illegal resorts occupying Vietnam's world biosphere reserve

By Giang Chinh   April 28, 2018 | 05:00 am PT
Illegal resorts occupying Vietnam's world biosphere reserve
A tourism construction rising up on an island of Cat Ba National Park. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Chinh
Hotels and restaurants were constructed despite lack of approvals from authorities.

People on a northern Vietnamese island have reported the illegal construction of many resorts, hotels and restaurants on the protected Cat Ba National Park, which is all part of the tourism ambition of the park's managers.

Locals on Cat Hai island district of Hai Phong said they have seen a series of constructions sprouting up here and there along the Lan Ha Bay, which is part of the protected park, which is a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Illegal constructions can also be spotted on other islands belonging to the national park nearby.

“A few years ago, this area still remained untouched,” said a local.

Hoang Van Thap, chief manager of the park, said all constructions on the Lan Ha Bay did not go through complete authorization protocols, but a plan to "temporarily upgrade the infrastructure was approved in principal."

He said back in 2009, the park's management board set up two projects on “making use of the environment to develop ecotourism” and sought approval from Hai Phong city’s authorities. It is still waiting for an official nod.

"Due to the high demand for tourism and the fact that these projects would take a long time to be completed," Thap said, the board has decided to seek approval from the district's government to temporarily cooperate with businesses to "upgrade the infrastructure."

Pham Van Ha, former director of the Cat Hai's agriculture department, said he asked the board to stop the construction in 2016.

Constructions on Lan Ha Bay belong to eight businesses. An investigation is ongoing, said Nguyen Tu Trong, vice director of the department.

Illegal constructions on natural sites in Vietnam have happened before. In March, a 2,000-step concrete stairway was ordered by Vietnam’s culture ministry to be removed from the Trang An limestone complex in Ninh Binh province, 100 kilometers south of Hanoi.

The Cat Ba National Park, established in 1986, is a World Heritage Site designated as a biosphere reserve in northern Vietnam. The park spans about 263 square kilometers, including 173 square kilometers of land and 90 square kilometers of inshore water.

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