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Hydro projects threaten Sapa tourism site

Hydro projects threaten Sapa tourism site

Thursday, August 23, 2012, 10:55 GMT+7

Muong Hoa Valley, a famous tourist attraction in Sapa, is under imminent threat of being destroyed due to the development of local hydropower projects.

>> Hydropower works threaten Gongs Culture Space

There are currently five hydro projects under construction in the area. According to the Lao Cai provincial Department of Culture, Sport and Tourism, the numbers of visitors to the valley has decreased 80% since 2006, when work on the projects began.

Moreover, local experts have also warned that the Su Pan 1 plant, near the Sapa ancient rock field in the valley, has seriously threatened the natural site, which was recognized as a national heritage item in 1994, and is under consideration to become a world heritage location.

Investor pledges protection

For its part, the Hanoi-based Viet Long Industrial Joint Stock Company, the investor in the Su Pan 1 hydropower plant, has ensured that the work will not affect a single rock.

“There was not a path to the rock field, we made one and even proposed to build a fence to protect the area. What did we do wrong? How did we damage the relic?” Pham Hai Ha, general director of Viet Long wondered.

“We think that building the hydro project is a good thing to do. We’ve never touched the rocks,” he added.

Experts skeptical

Tran Huu Son, director of Lao Cai’s Department of Culture, Tourism and Sport, confirmed that the entire landscape of the valley will be damaged, not only the rocks.

“Who can be sure the construction of these dams will not cause landslides and affect the area? And how long will it take restore the site if a disaster were to occur?” he said.

“In 1997, the Prime Minister approved the nomination for the Sapa ancient rock field to be recognized as a world heritage site. We cannot make a dossier for every single rock, the rocks must be put in the whole landscape which has been covered by five hydro projects,” a representative of the Heritage Department under the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism added.

Meanwhile, Dr. Dang Van Bai, vice chairman of the Vietnam Cultural Heritage Association, confirmed that Lao Cai province must make a choice between doing business and the recognition of the area’s natural beauty.

“If they want to do business, they should give up on tourism and the world heritage recognition. Today Sapa is a tourism product, but it will be a cemetery of hydro projects after 50 years,” he stated.

“We have to consider the affect of all five projects on the area. The construction of such a large number of hydropower works expresses our attitude towards Mother Nature. If we’re not careful now, we will destroy our later generations,” he added.

Doctor Tran Huu Son also shared his opinion that the projects should be undertaken elsewhere. “It’s not necessary to build all five projects in Sapa, the biggest mountainous tourist attraction in the whole country. The hydro projects’ contribution to the country’s development will be meaningless compared with the damage they cause to the tourism resource,” he stressed.


This area is planned to be tunred into a reservoir of the Su Pan 1 plant. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Local residents complain

Local residents whose lives have been directly affected by the projects also express dismay over the construction.

“We have lost fish, waterfalls, and landscape, we’ve lost them all,” Dao A An, head of Ban Den village at Ban Ho Commune, lamented.

An recounts the time when the first hydro project began in 2004, when all the waste from the work was poured into the spring passing through the village.

“In the past, hundreds of tourists visited every day, but now the number has decreased sharply. In the village, there are around 29 households offering tourism services, but now only one or two get any costumers,” he said.  

Tuoi Tre


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