Vietnam leader calls for wildlife safeguards after uproar over huge Ha Long Bay construction site

This aerial photo taken on November 4, 2023 shows the construction site of a residential and hotel complex near Ha Long Bay in Vietnam's Quang Ninh province. A huge residential complex being built on the borders of Vietnam's Ha Long Bay prompted a public outcry in the Southeast Asian country on November 6, 2023, as concerns mount over human impacts that have degraded the UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Photo by Hoang DUONG / AFP)

HANOI: Vietnamese officials are being ordered to tighten environmental protections in the province where an approved project featuring villas and seven-story hotels near the Unesco World Heritage Site Ha Long Bay triggered a public outcry.

Quang Ninh Province People’s Council Chairman Nguyen Xuan Ky directed local agencies to improve preservation management of Ha Long Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay ecosystems and biodiversity, according to a posting on the provincial government’s news website.

The province, he added, won’t "attract investment at all costs” or trade environmental protections for economic growth.

Reports of the project jutting into waters near Ha Long Bay triggered an uproar.

Deputy Prime Minister Tran Hong Ha ordered the Ministry of Construction, along with the environment and culture ministries and provincial authorities, to investigate the project and report back to Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh before Nov. 25, according to a statement on the Vietnam government’s website.

Construction plans, which were approved by the province in 2021, include at least 451 villas and townhouses, multiple seven-story hotels and other buildings for roughly 2,500 residents near Ha Long Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay, Tien Phong newspaper reported on its website.

Do Gia Capital Company Ltd. spent about 1.2 trillion dong (US$49.2 million) for rights to build the urban project after winning a land auction, according to the report.

Do Gia Capital representatives were not immediately available for comment.

After news organizations reported details of the construction site, Quang Ninh’s department of natural resources and environment fined Do Gia Capital 125 million dong for failing to comply with an approved environmental impact assessment, according to another statement on the Vietnam government’s website.

The People’s Committee of Cam Pha City, which has administrative authority over the construction area, called for a halt of the project.

- ©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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