Stop construction on Vietnam's major river, advocacy group demands

By Phan Hau - Chi Nhan, Thanh Nien News

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Construction materials have encroached on a part of the Dong Nai River to make ground for a development project. Photo: Le Lam Construction materials have encroached on a part of the Dong Nai River to make ground for a development project. Photo: Le Lam

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Vietnam Rivers Network, the country’s largest advocacy group for water resource protection, has asked the southern province of Dong Nai to end a development that is filling a huge part of the country’s largest river.
The Hanoi-based society, which is open for all academics, officials and people who share the interest in water sustainable development, expressed serious concern for the Dong Nai River in a statement released Monday.
Toan Thinh Phat Company in Dong Nai Province has been dumping rock and sand into the river in an attempt to fill up 77,200 square meters of it for a mixed-use development of houses, offices, shopping malls and a hotel.
Officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and Dong Nai River Basin Protection Committee, a government-appointed advisory body, said they were not aware of the project until it was reported on local media this month.
Vietnam Rivers Network said in the statement that the project is developed at a "sensitive location" and the province should put an end to it.
“Dong Nai government needs to stop the dumping of rock and soil into the river.”
It said the province should consult related government offices, scientists and the community about the impacts of the project to decide if it should continue.
Dong Nai is the longest river within Vietnam, running over 586 kilometers from the Central Highlands to Ho Chi Minh City.
It supports nearly 20 million people and is a main water source for people in southern Vietnam, including 10 million in HCMC.
Experts have warned that the new project will cause erosion, change the current and pollute water in the river.
Any rivers and streams in Vietnam are required to have a protection corridor of between five to 70 meters on each side.
Engineer Nguyen Van Duc, an expert of construction foundation in HCMC, said that to create a surface of 77,000 square meters for construction, the developer will have to dump a really large amount of construction materials straight into the river. 
This will blanket a much larger area on the river's bed, which could be four times larger than the surface area, Duc warned. 
A Facebook fanpage has been set up, drawing nearly 4,000 Likes as it calls for protection of the Dong Nai River against the development.
It accused Dong Nai Province of being inconsistent as it used to work hard to push back several hydropower plant projects upstream of the river, but now approves a damaging project in its area.

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