Soc Trang residents are furious over a recent government decision to fill in portions of the Tra Cu river, a major transport route, to build a commercial center.
Locals in My Tu District said the contractor has already filled in nearly two thirds of the river-bed (around 300 meters long) to drive in stakes for a planned dyke at the future market.
They have objected to the construction and asked for it to be stopped.
Huynh Van Lau, a resident, said the river supplies water for production in many communes.
Thousands of boaters use the river as a conduit between Soc Trang and nearby provinces in the Mekong Delta, including ships carrying rice and commercial cargo, Lau said.
Le Phat Minh, a former senior official of the province, said some local officials also objected to the project.
Many have pointed out that the province's downtown area doesn't lack vacant land, Minh said. "So why encroach on the river?" he asked.
The project ignores the long-term interests of the residents, Minh claimed. He further worries that it will impede waterway traffic and pollute the environment.
Huynh Thien Tu, chairman of My Tu district, said he just took the job and didn't know much about the project yet. Tu said he will look into the matter later.
The project was planned in 2007 and started in September this year with an investment of more than VND50 billion (US$2.56 million).