International conservationists are warning that the cement industry in the southern province of Kien Giang is destroying limestone hills and threatening many unique species there.
The Species Survival Commission at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Flora Fauna International (FFI) recently conducted a study on Hon Chong, sometimes referred to as the Ha Long Bay of the south.
The karst limestone hills in the area are described by IUCN a global conservation hotspot. Isolated from each other like islands in the ocean, these hills show very high levels of plant and invertebrate endemism with several species confined to a single hill, according to the union.
A statement on FFI website said that the study found the area contain a larger number of threatened endemic species than any other habitat of similar size on earth.
The area has shrunk from 447 hectares to only 258 hectares as cement companies have destroyed around 42 percent of the limestone hills over the past decades.
At least 31 species in the area are currently threatened, six of which are critically endangered, it said.
One of them is a ghost snail species, Macrochlamys, known only from two Hon Chong caves. According to the researchers, around half of its original population has been lost and the remainder is facing threats.
A ghost snail species that is unique to Hon Chong caves. Photo: Jaap Vermeulen/ FFI
Among the companies responsible are Holcim Vietnam, a member of the Swiss-invested group, and many state-owned firms, FFI said.
Holcim in 2012 completed an action plan to avoid or minimize the impacts of its quarrying activities in the area, but few effective actions have been taken since, according to FFI report.
Tony Whitten, Fauna & Flora International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director, said in the report that Kien Giang authorities are considering a nature reserve that would give protection to nine of the 34 hills at Hon Chong, but that would only benefit a quarter of the species in the area.