Probe launched into urban river project

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has recommended that the Government should not lift the ban on the construction of an urban area in Dong Nai Province that involves massive encroachment into a major river.

The report, authorised by minister Nguyen Minh Quang, said the project had not scrupulously stuck to the law, failed to factor in the possibility of severe flooding in the Dong Nai River and its assessments of the impact on river flow were not scientifically reliable.

The province has allowed Toan Thinh Phat Investment Architecture and Construction Joint Stock Company to fill up over 7.7 hectares of the Dong Nai River for its 8.4 hectare urban area, with the rest being located in a protective corridor.

The area will comprise a mall, houses, five-star hotels, office buildings, and parks on a 1.3 kilometre stretch along and on the river.

Not surprisingly, the company’s filling of the river with rocks and sand starting last September sparked off an outcry from the public and many experts, and the Government suspended the work in March.

The ministry report said an inter-ministerial inspection had found that the project failed to strictly follow regulations related to master planning and the Water Resource Law on ensuring an escape route for floods, water flow, and river bank erosion.

“The water flow simulation in the Dong Nai River was done for only four days, September 16-19, 2008, and that was not enough.”

It dismissed all conclusions related to filling up 50m, 75m and 100m of the Dong Nai River between Hoa An and Ghenh bridges in Bien Hoa city, saying the developer’s claim that the encroachment would not impact the water flow was not scientifically reliable.

Despite the fact that pre-feasibility studies had been done without involving the ministry, work on the project began last January.

The report said the project would affect water supply to Bien Hoa city as well as the Bien Hoa hydrology station for measuring water levels.

“If the project is approved, the station will have to be moved, and this will definitely impact all historical data, and even the calculation of flood alarm levels for the Southern Hydrometeorology Station will have to be changed.”

More general studies were needed about the effect on the river’s flow to decide if the project could continue, it said.

The Government should instruct the Dong Nai People’s Committee not to restart the project while ministries studied the environment impact assessments, especially with relation to flooding, water flow, silting, and land slides along banks.

The project is estimated to cost VND3.2 trillion (US$150 million).

The Dong Nai River, at 610km, is the third longest river in the country, running through 10 provinces and HCM City and supplying water to nearly 20 million people. 

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