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Development won't hurt Can Gio Biosphere Reserve, says former official

PhD Le Duc Tuan, former Secretary of the Can Gio Biosphere Reserve, talks about the potential development of the Can Gio Biosphere Reserve into a tourism hub.

A view of Can Gio Biosphere Reserve in HCM City. — Photo

Have we decided to exchange environmental development for economic development by having a future tourism project next to the Can Gio Biosphere Reserve?

HCM City authorities have released an official regulation on the management of the Can Gio Biosphere Reserve. And this reserve has been listed as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO. The site is an important wildlife sanctuary in Vietnam as it is characterised by a wetland biosystem dominated by mangrove and many rare species. The regulation has prohibited all economic activities, except age-old traditional activities. However, in the buffer zone, traditional economic activities for the daily life of the local people are allowed.

Yet, in the adjacent buffer zone, there is no restriction on economic activities. The future tourism project is some 18km from the core of the Can Gio biosphere reserve and will not bring about negative impacts on the Can Gio mangrove forest. Though the project has been approved by the Prime Minister, its construction activities must strictly follow the environmental impact assessment which has been approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

It is projected that Can Gio Biosphere Reserve will lose about 30,000ha due to rising sea levels. Could the reserve be under seawater if sea levels continue to rise?

The loss of 30,000ha of the Can Gio Biosphere Reserve is caused by nature, not by the sea-level rise. Of course, when developers build an eco-urban area next to the sea, they have to calculate carefully all negative elements which may arise in the eco-urban area. The project could be considered as a big wall to prevent seawater intrusion. Maybe in the future, we will have a project to reclaim land from the sea to have more civil projects.

Some people have expressed concerns that the lives of local people in the Can Gio region will be negatively affected by rapid urban development?

I believe the new eco-urban area will become a driving force to help local people improve both their economy and spiritual lives. The fast development of science and technology will help local people change their lives for the better. Besides, the fast economic development of the region will help improve essential infrastructure, a driving force to improve the living conditions for local people.

It is projected that when the project is completed, the population in the Can Gio region will be about 220,000 people – three times greater than at present. Do you think the rapid increase in the population will harm the Can Gio Biosphere Reserve?

I have little worries about the negative impacts of economic development on the environment. I’m confident that if the investors are lawful people, there should be no worries. What’s important is on the side of the people who are carrying out the project.

I hope project owners who are lawful people will do what they have committed to in their project proposals. And the Can Gio region will become a green and smart satellite city.

Do you think Can Gio will become a big tourism venue for HCM City?

HCM City authorities have always wanted to develop Can Gio into an attractive tourism site. Since the year 2000 when the Can Gio Biosphere was acknowledged as a bio-reserve region, HCM City has developed a project to turn Can Gio into a biosphere reserve for tourism development. If in the year 2010, about 500,000 tourists came to Can Gio, by the year 2018, the number of tourists went there jumped to 1.5 million.

Basing on the potential development of the reserve, the HCM City authorities have adopted a Can Gio Tourism Project with a total investment of about VND217 trillion (US$9.6 billion). The project will cover an area of 2,870ha and it will become a big hub for tourism, hi-tech, housing, services, hotels and others. VNS/Thanh Nien

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