Huynh Tan Vinh, head of Da Nang City Tourism Association, speaks to Lao dong Cuoi tuan (Labour Weekend) newspaper about the recent governmental inspection of construction projects on Son Tra Peninsula.
Huynh Tan Vinh. – Photo laodong.vn
What do you expect from the inspection results, which will be published in the near future?
As the Da Nang City Tourism Association and I state in our letters on Son Tra Peninsula design planning sent to Prime Minister before, I expect law enforcement authorities to prioritise wildlife preservation. It has also been requested by Da Nang residents, researchers and the community. I believe that the Government has noted those opinions.
Regarding Son Tra Peninsula, the main subject of the recent inspection, I think a lot of people can recognise the issue’s complexity. Therefore, we expect that the inspection results can clearly show violations against the laws on biodiversity and land allocation as well as the responsibilities of authorities.
On the other hand, we should pay more attention to developing solutions for the issue as it will be meaningless if we identify problems without making a move.
What do you think about the alterations to the Da Nang authorities’ development plans after the issues with the Son Tra Peninsula?
I find it positive that the changes have provoked the city leaders’ awareness. They focus more on how to develop the city in a sustainable way.
The changes reflect through the process of reevaluating and adjusting the city’s general design plan. Therein, environmental and cultural factors are prioritised. Before, we focused mostly on buildings and paid little attention to public spaces. Recently, the city authorities start considering the need to implement more culture and entertainment activities for people and visitors, including establishing a night market or preserving historic relics like Thanh Dien Hai or Nam O Village temples.
By upholding community values in planning the city’s design, Da Nang shows its firm commitment to sustainable development.
Some people feel sorry for what has happened to Son Tra. Looking on the bright side, what positives do you see?
Not only me but so many others think that the inspection conducted by the Government is a timely and important decision which offers the peninsula a chance to change the status quo.
Though the massive construction on Son Tra is a tragic incident, it helps to put the peninsula at the centre of the public attention and raises people’s awareness about the relations between wildlife preservation and development as well as the importance of nature to people. The incident has awakened people to the problem that in recent times economic development has been the only goal. Thanks to the sad demise of the Red-shanked douc langur (Pygathrix nemaeus), the peninsula’s most famous species, whose habitat has been heavily invaded by manmade constructions, scientists have initiated intensive research on Vietnam’s biodiversity.
More than anyone, Da Nang City residents should be the vanguards in raising their own voices for their own sakes, for the environment and their livelihoods. When their voices are heard by the Government, heritage will be protected. We could see similar changes in Phong Nha – Ke Bang or the Quang Ngai Province nipa palm forest. When residents speak out, enterprises will also properly weigh the economic and social values before conducting any projects.
What do you expect from the inspection results?
It is not a matter of withdrawing or continuing tourism construction projects on the peninsula. The concern is that, however it will develop, the wildlife of Son Tra must be well preserved. The community should keep fighting to protect the legacy for future children.
In the near future, the inspection results may live up to or fall short of our expectations. The adjustments by the Government and Da Nang authorities may not fully satisfy public opinion. However, sustainable development cannot be achieved overnight; the concept itself changes through the years.
The one-year inspection and the shift in public opinion on issues of Son Tra Peninsula are positive but not enough. We do not need to fence up the peninsula. To simultaneously develop and preserve the peninsula is a smarter way, I think.
It is inevitable that urbanisation can negatively affect the environment. Our mission is to strictly monitor the process.
I do not expect that Da Nang City will become Hong Kong or Singapore. Every city bears its own signature characteristics. Someday, Da Nang can have an identity for itself if it develops sustainably and responsibly. Being nurtured by both the forest and the sea, the city will become one of a kind if we know how to appreciate its values.
In December 2017, the Government Inspectorate of Viet Nam (GIV) started the inspection on the controversial Da Phuoc International Urban project, along with all investment and construction projects on the protected Son Tra Peninsula.
The inspection will consider land use and management practices as well as forest and environmental protection on the peninsula, 10km from the city.
Eighteen out of 25 planned hotels and resorts on the Son Tra Mountain have been approved by the city on a total of 1,220ha, while 137 private villas, of which more than 20 villas have already been built, are planned on 2.4ha in the reserve.