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Is Vietnam Committing Tourism Suicide?

A recent piece in Thanh Nien looks at how the country’s pristine beaches, rivers and mountains are being literally ripped apart in the name of development. While much of this environmental degradation can be attributed to industrial development, in many cases, it is the Vietnamese tourism companies that are responsible. Ironically, an industry that relies on the natural beauty is destroying it, potentially digging its own grave and bringing the country’s environmental health along with it.

One of the most obvious victims is Lam Dong Province’s Pongour Falls, once considered by the French to be Indochina’s most majestic. After a dam was built upstream in 2008, the water stopped flowing to the 40 meter cascades.

The tourism company that manages the falls built a reservoir above the falls and releases water during the day, creating in effect, an artificial waterfall. 

Pham Trung Luong, deputy director of the Tourism Development Institute, told Thanh Nien that while the degradation of tourism areas had been discussed at conferences, "…there have been no changes [for the better]. The situation is actually worsening.”

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Sa Pa’s is suffering a similar fate. Phan Dinh Hue, director of the HCMC-based Vong Tron Viet (Viet Circle) Tourism Agent, after a recent visit to the famous region lamented that, "People are exploiting Sa Pa like chopping down a tree to pick its fruits," he said.

While the natural beauty of Mui Ne’s and Nha Trang’s beaches have been destroyed in the name of resorts, perhaps the most striking example of this development dilemma is the country’s tourism crown jewel – Ha Long Bay, which is visited by 40 out of every 100 European visitors to Vietnam.

"Each passenger boats discharge an average of 2,000-3,000 liters of waste every day. With 500 tourism boats, it's up to 1.5 million liters of untreated waste discharged into the bay,” Ha The Tien, an engineer working on a ship in Ha Long told the paper.

Luong, deputy director of the Tourism Development Institute concluded that:

"It will happen soon that tourists coming to Vietnam will have nothing to see except for damaged nature."

[Thanh Nien]

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