​Management of Vietnamese natural reserve mulls renting forest land to tourism companies

​Management of Vietnamese natural reserve mulls renting forest land to tourism companies

Children swim at the Hon Ba Natural Reserve in Khanh Hoa Province, south-central Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

The management board of a natural reserve in the south-central Vietnamese province of Khanh Hoa is seeking permission to set aside a portion of the forest it is overseeing for tourism purposes.

Le Ba Ninh, director of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said on Wednesday he had received the proposal by the protected area’s management to lease 600 hectares of the 20,000-hectare Hon Ba Natural Reserve to private entities for ecotourism development.

The nature reserve is made of three zones, respectively meant for flora and fauna protection, ecological restoration and administrative services.

Do Anh Thy, director of the reserve’s management board, said their proposal only seeks to lease part of the forest land in the last two zones, with respective areas of nearly 9,600 hectares and over 213 hectares, keeping the first one untouched.

Thy added that roads and facilities, with a dual purpose of forest protection and tourism, will be built in the ecological recovery zone, once the plan is approved.

Khanh Hoa administrators have tasked the agriculture department and relevant bodies with jointly deliberating on the proposal, according to Ninh.

“The evaluation of environmental risk has not been made clear in the proposal,” he said.

“The provincial administration and [my] department are uncertain about the plan, because its implementation could lead to more harm than good.”

Ninh added that the project may bring in only modest economic benefits, whereas “it will be disastrous if the forest is affected.”

The Hon Ba Natural Reserve, located some 60km from the famed beach city of Nha Trang, is home to about 56 rare animal species whose names appear in Vietnam’s Red Data Book and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and to around 43 endangered plant species.

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