Lach Huyen port project in the northern port city of Hai Phong is fiercely protested by experts, because the plan to discharge 40 million cubic meters of mud into the sea will harm the environment of Cat Ba, a future nominee for the UNESCO’s recognition of a world natural heritage.
Cat Ba Island.
Last year, the Ministry of Transport and Hai Phong authorities approved the plan to discharge nearly 40 million cubic meters of mud, which was dredged from the Lach Huyen port, to the port’s dike and the nearby Dinh Vu industrial zone. However, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has recently proposed to discharge the huge volume of mud to the sea.
Lach Huyen port project uses Japan’s ODA capital and Vietnamese reciprocal capital. The two governments signed a lending agreement for this project last November. The project consists of two phases: 1) building infrastructure facilities (passage, anchorage, dike, etc), with the Vietnam Maritimes Agency as the investor and 2) building two container wharves. The total investment is VND18.627 trillion ($930 million). The project was kicked off in March 2012.
One of the tasks in the first phase is dredging mud, with an estimated volume of 40 million cu.m. According to JICA, if mud is discharged to the sea, the distance from the site to the sea is only 16km (southern Cat Ba), the road is clear and the cost will be only JPY35 billion. The time needed is only 41 months, satisfying the set pace of construction.
The proposal has immediately been protested by scientists.
Cat Ba is one of eight UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in Vietnam. There are 620 species of plants, 438 lines of descent, and 123 families, among which there are 350 medicinal plants. More than 32 species of mammals, 69 species of birds, as well as 20 species of reptiles and amphibians can be found in Cat Ba National Park. The White-headed Vooc, an endangered bird species, is found on the cliffs separating the island from (chamois), and many beautiful birds such as the cao cat, boi ca (kingfisher), hut mat, and dau riu also live on the island.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development first recognized Cat Ba as a protected area in 1983 and it has since received recognition as a national park in 1986, a Marine Protected Area in 1995 and most recently as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 2004.
Scientists say that the environment of Cat Ba World Biosphere Reserve will be destroyed by mud. Moreover, 40 million cu.m of mud will make change to the current, wave and tide of the sea of Hai Phong and Quang Ninh. According to the Hai Phong Port Authority, the Lach Huyen passage was 7.2m deep in January 2006 and it was only 5.8m in July 2011. Scientists worry that this volume of mud may run back to Lach Huyen in the next five years.
Experts estimate that 40 million cu.m of mud is sufficient to level 700-1,000 hectares. It is a big waste to throw this volume of mud to the sea while Hai Phong needs around 600 million cu.m of materials to level the surface of the Dinh Vu industrial zone. If using mud dredged from Lach Huyen port as material for surface leveling (requiring 5-7 years to dry and compress), the cost is equivalent to 40-50 percent if black sand is used.
According to previous documents of the Haiphong authorities and the Ministry of Transport and experts’ opinion, discharging mud to the Dinh Vu industrial zone is the most suitable plan because: This industrial zone is 2,000 hectares in total area and Hai Phong authorities decided to invest more than VND998 billion (nearly $50 million) to build a dike around the industrial zone; the distance from this zone to Lach Huyen port is 10-16km only.
However, on April 3, 2012, the Ministry of Transport sent a dispatch to Hai Phong, proposing to add the plan of discharging mud to the sea to the environmental impact report to submit to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment for evaluation.
Hai Phong authorities showed its agreement with the Ministry of Transport in a dispatch dated April 5.
Experts and the public are worried about the proposal and they want relevant agencies to carefully consider this idea.
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