The central province of Quang Binh has announced a plan to build 10 golf courses to lift its residents out of poverty, but environmentalists warn that the project will cause serious sea pollution.
The province, whose per capita income is only around US$1,100, or half of the national average, wants to draw more tourists. It is now already famous for beautiful beaches and an impressive cave system which includes the world’s largest cave Son Doong.
Officials from the central province said at a recent press briefing that it had originally looked for investors to develop only one golf course. But then Hanoi-based property group FLC decided to build 10 courses after surveying the area.
Officials now strongly support the idea, arguing that the courses will make Quang Binh a “unique” destination in the country for golf players.
“It will save players time and money from traveling a long way to different courses,” said the province spokesperson Truong An Ninh.
The courses will take over an area of around 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) along the sea and are expected to cost at least VND3 trillion (US$135 million).
Ninh said the location is a sandy desert and the project will not affect arable or residential land.
He said most people living in the area now are poor and the courses will create jobs for them.
“The investor has carefully calculated the economic gains for them and local people,” he said, as cited by Tuoi Tre newspaper.
Quang Binh is not part of the national development plan for 96 golf courses by the end of 2020.
Its plan for the new courses will need to be approved by the central government.
Officials have promised that they will strictly follow environmental requirements and learn from good practices in neighboring provinces.
Still environmentalists have protested against the plan, arguing that the coastline golf courses will damage the environment.
Dr. Vu Thanh Ca, an expert from the Vietnam Administration of Seas and Islands, said no coastline development is good for the environment.
“Building a golf course by the sea is something the province should never do,” Ca told Tien Phong newspaper.
He cited examples in the US, China, South Korea and Indonesia where rules strictly protect coastal ecology from any tourism and commercial development.
Those rules also make sure that the public have free access to the sea.
Nguyen Khac Kinh, a former official at the environment ministry, said the courses “can change the vegetation along the coast and the huge amount of chemicals used will pollute the sea.”
Kinh said an area of 1,000 hectare of golf courses can use more than a thousand tons of fertilizers a year.