Terraced field on Dong Van geological park in Ha Giang
The northern highlands province of Ha Giang has announced plans to build a casino on top of rock highlands region that has been recognized as a UNESCO Global Geological Park.
Representatives from the Ha Giang People's Committee said at a meeting Thursday in Hanoi that the casino will be part of a 2.72 square kilometer center that will include hotels, restaurants, resorts and other amusement options, all to be built by 2020.
Only foreigners are allowed at casinos in Vietnam.
The announcement means that interested parties can start applying to invest in the project.
Sen Chin Ly, vice chairman of the province, said at the meeting that the project had been approved by the Prime Minister, as a tourism and "preservation" project aiming to promote the geological park, and help locals escape poverty.
Vietnam News Agency said deputy PM Nguyen Thien Nhan complimented the plan at the meeting, calling it a milestone for socio-economic development in the highlands.
The Dong Van highlands (encompassing more than 2,300 square kilometers) is currently home to more than 250,000 people from 17 minority groups, 70 percent of whom are H'Mong.
It was named a global geological park in 2010, due to its status as a hub for ethnic minority culture as well as its value for historical studies about the formation and development of the Earth's surface.
It is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful -- if not the most beautiful -- places in Vietnam.
Limestone can be found in 11 layers on 80 percent of Dong Van's land area and two of layers are sediment dating from 400 to 600 million years ago. It is the second geological park in Southeast Asia, after Langkawi Geological Park in Malaysia, and the 54th in the world.
The title has drawn more tourists to the highlands, 302,000 in 2011 and nearly 400,000 in 2012. The first quarter of this year has seen nearly 140,000 people visit the highlands.