Experts have called for the cancellation of a controversial property project that fills up a section of the Dong Nai, Vietnam’s longest river, with rocks and sand, saying the construction will lead to dire consequences.
“The project’s environmental impact assessment report got it wrong. The project will surely alter the course of the river and affect the sensitive ecological system in the area,” said Vu Ngoc Long, director of the Southern Institute of Ecology.
Long was speaking at a conference on the issue, held in Hanoi on May 12 by the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations, the Legislative Research Institute and the Vietnam Rivers Network.
Toan Thinh Phat Company in Dong Nai Province has dumped rocks and sand into the river in an attempt to fill up 84,000 square meters for a mixed-use development of houses, offices, shopping malls and a hotel.
The provincial authority has suspended the project following widespread criticism, pending further consultations with governmental agencies.
The Dong Nai is the longest river within Vietnam, running over 586 kilometers from the Central Highlands through five provinces before entering the East Sea in Ho Chi Minh City’s Can Gio District.
It is the main water source of the southern region and supports nearly 20 million people, including 10 million in HCMC.
At the conference, Long showed evidence to prove that the project’s environmental impact assessment report was "carelessly prepared," with a long section apparently having been copied from the proposal of a cemetery project in the province.
“Half of the conclusion of the new report was taken straight from a report written for the Vinh Hang Cemetery. I was very surprised because it's exactly the same, word for word,” he said.
"This is unacceptable," he said.
“The project has to be cancelled. I propose that the National Assembly, the Prime Minister and the Dong Nai River Basin's Environment Protection Committee take immediate action to save the river.”
Long said a person in charge of the province's Bien Hoa Airport – a dioxin-contaminated facility that was used by the US Army in the Vietnam War – claimed that Toan Thinh Phat bought rocks and sand from the airport to fill the river.
“If it is true, it is very dangerous because the river provides water for the Bien Hoa Water Plant, which serves 1.5 million people, and the Hoa An Water Plant, which serves 10 million others.”
“The consequences to the community will be massive because it can lead to deformities and cancers,” he said.
In a recent meeting between relevant agencies regarding the allegation, Tran Van Dung of the 935 Regimen, which manages the airport, said the soil there is not tainted with dioxin.
He also said that the airport sold sand and rocks to a company in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, not to the Dong Nai-based Toan Thinh Phat.
Experts at the conference said that Dong Nai’s leaders have to be questioned at a parliamentary session.
"They can't secretly prepare for and carry out the river filling project without reporting to higher authorities,” said Do Hong Phan, a water resource specialist.
Pham The Minh, general secretary of the Vietnam Federation of Civil Engineering Association, said that a project that affects several provinces has to be assessed by the central government.
“The province should not favor a company just because it contributes dozens of billions of dong a year,” Minh said.