The Khanh Hoa provincial administration has banned further hotel construction and many water sports in the interests of protecting Nha Trang Bay.
Khanh Hoa is also home to the coastal resort town of Nha Trang, which has been a top destination for Russian tourists to Vietnam since Cam Ranh Airport, some 30 kilometers from Nha Trang, was upgraded to serve as an international airport in 2009
The new decision barred development on the islands of Hon Mun, Hon Noc, Hon Vung and Hon Cau, which sit inside what is widely considered to be the most beautiful bay in the world, news website Thoi Bao Kinh Te Saigon (Saigon Times) reported last week.
Nguyen Chien Thang, mayor of the province, signed the decision that divided the bay into clear urban development and environmental protection zones.
The protected zone stretches from the langoon Bay to Hon Mun and includes 300 meters of water around the aforementioned islands.
Activities like motor boating, windsurfing, and spear fishing will be banned.
Construction in other parts of the bay must now comply with design restrictions to avoid any severe environmental impact.
Boating and tourism operators in the area must be equipped to collect and treat waste discharged through their operations.
The local government has asked tourist boats on the bay to outfit their vessels with septic tanks since 2004. To date, none has complied and they continue to dump an untold quantity of untreated sewage directly into the bay.
Nha Trang’s marine environment has been whittled away since the tourism boom began in 1999, impacting hundreds of hectares (1 acre is equivalent to 0.4 hectare) of beachfront.
According to the Institute of Oceanography, the ecology of Nha Trang Bay has deteriorated rapidly due to tourism-related construction projects, leaving many native species teetering on the verge of extinction.
The bay's coral reefs have fallen into particular decline.
In the decade after Nha Trang’s renovated beachside boulevard opened to traffic, long lines of trucks carrying rocks and soil became a common sight. The materials were dumped into the bay to form the foundation for new hotels and resorts.
In recent years, dozens of projects have been licensed along Nha Trang’s northern beach. About half of the hotels have already been built; the rest remain under construction.