A corner of the Son Tra Nature Reserve (Source: VNA)
Da Nang (VNA) - Nearly 200 scientists, biologists and conservationists, have unanimously agreed that the construction of all buildings in the Son Tra Nature Reserve should be stopped immediately.

The consensus was reached at a scientific conference on the conservation and sustainable development of ecological systems on the Son Tra Peninsula, held in Da Nang last weekend.

The conference saw 11 reports and research papers submitted on biodiversity in the reserve as well as ideas and proposals for its sustainable development.

The scientists also agreed to petition the PM for stopping construction of new buildings on and reviewing tourism plans for the reserve.

The conference followed up on concerns voiced by the public as well as scientists when the Vietnam National Tourism Administration announced a plan to “develop” the reserve.

The reserve, which shrank from 4,400ha to 2,500ha to accommodate resorts and hotels between 1977 and 2014, would have to give up another 1,056ha more for the new plan that expects 1,600 luxury hotel rooms by 2030.

Of 25 hotels and resorts on the Son Tra Mountain that have been approved by the city, 18 are operating or under construction.

“The development of resorts and hotels as well as traffic routes, has interrupted the movement of wild species including the endangered Red-shanked douc langurs (Pygathrix nemaeus) living in the reserve,” said Dr Ha Thang Long, head of the representative office of the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) in Vietnam.

He said construction of the InterContinental Da Nang Sun Peninsula Resort had separated the west and east sides of the reserve, interrupting the movement of wildlife animals including the Red-shanked douc langurs.

Director of the Southern Institute of Ecology, Luu Hong Truong, said the Son Tra Nature Reserve, 10km away from the Da Nang centre, was really unique in Vietnam and the world, with its biodiversity ranging from primary forests to ocean with more than 1,000 plants and 370 animal species.

Dr Nguyen Xuan Hoa of the Nha Trang Oceanography Institute said 42 percent of coral reefs in the reserve had disappeared in the past decade (from 80.9ha in 2006 to 46.9ha in 2016) in sea area off Da Nang due to construction projects, pollution and over-fishing.

Hoa said coral reefs in the north of the Son Tra peninsula (near InterContinental Da Nang) had been almost entirely destroyed and 9ha of seabed badly damaged.

According to the latest report from the centre for biodiversity research and conservation (GreenViet), more than 237 herds of red-shanked douc langurs, comprising over 1,300 individuals, are living in the Son Tra Nature Reserve.

It said the development of buildings and poor control of tourism in the reserve would damage the ecological system which is an oxygen supplier for 4.3 million people each day.

Chairman of the Da Nang Tourism Association Huynh Tan Vinh, who has sent a petition to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc asking for changes to the Son Tra Master Plan, said the Son Tra Nature Reserve was precious not only for Da Nang, but the whole of Vietnam.

He said it must be strictly protected with a special regime involving responsible agencies and managers.

“We should protect the reserve before targeting tourism. The city can maintain the reserve as a site for tourists interested in exploring primary nature,” Vinh said.

“The city can build hotels and resorts in the downtown and coastal areas, but not in the reserve, please,” he pleaded.

Vinh said Da Nang could allow the operation of already hotels and resorts already built, but a moratorium was needed on new projects in the reserve.

Dr Nguyen Manh Ha, from the Vietnam National Committee for Man and Biosphere (MAB), said part of the Son Tra Nature (2,591ha) can combine with 2,269ha of the Nam Hai Van protective forest to form a biosphere reserve.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Chi Thanh, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Wetlands Association, said the current management overlap regarding control of the Son Tra Nature Reserve must be removed.

Nguyen Duc Tu of IUCN Vietnam said the organisation had sent a letter to the Prime Minister regarding its concerns about the tourism plans for the Son Tra Reserve.

A National Assembly Deputy, Truong Trong Nghia, also said that all illegal constructions in the reserve should be demolished.

Last week, soil erosion caused by an illegally constructed villa polluted the Tien Sa beach, and observers said a larger of the Da Nang beach is likely to suffer similar pollution.-VNA