Investor fined $5,140 for environmental shortcomings in project in Hạ Long Bay's buffer zone

November 07, 2023 - 13:54
The decision was issued by the inspectors of the Quảng Ninh Province's Department of Natural Resources and Environment on Tuesday.
An aerial view of Đỗ Gia Capital Co Ltd's urban project in Zone 10B, Quang Hanh Ward, Cẩm Phả City, Quảng Ninh Province. — VNA/VNS Photo

QUẢNG NINH — The investor behind the controversial construction of an urban project that allegedly encroached on Hạ Long Bay's buffer zone has been slapped with a fine of VNĐ125 million (about US$5,140) for environmental pollution.

The decision was issued by the inspectors of the Quảng Ninh Province's Department of Natural Resources and Environment (Decision No. 38/QĐ-XPHC) on Tuesday.

Đỗ Gia Capital Co., Ltd. is the investor of the $49-million urban project in Zone 10B, Quang Hanh Ward, Cẩm Phả City, covering an area of approximately 31.8ha, including 3.88ha of land reclamation done within the buffer zone of the UNESCO heritage site Hạ Long Bay. The scale of project includes 451 villas and townhouses, rough construction and finishing of the exterior of 52 villas, along with some commercial and service projects, including a seven-story hotel.

The project was approved by Quảng Ninh Province in 2021.

According to inspectors, Đỗ Gia Capital Co., Ltd. committed two administrative violations, namely failing to publicly disclose the approved environmental impact assessment report (subject to fine of VNĐ35 million) and failing to implement the contents of the environmental impact assessment report (subject to fine of VNĐ90 million).

The environmental impact report for the urban project in question was approved by the provincial People's Committee in Decision No. 1614/QĐ-UBND dated June 15, 2023.

As per this approved report, the main construction approach was to build the surrounding dyke system of the project first, followed by technical infrastructure, and then other structures according to the planning. During the construction process, measures must be taken to prevent tides and rainwater from spreading mud and waste beyond the project's boundaries.

In addition, the project's environmental impact assessment also clearly states the choice of time to construct the public service road, including dredging of rising mud at times of low tide to limit the dispersion of mud and soil into the environment.

However, during an on-site inspection at the construction site of the urban project, it was observed that Đỗ Gia had not yet constructed the surrounding dyke system. Also, the project investor is directly depositing soil and rocks into the coastal waters within the project's planning boundaries without performing the required mud dredging activities to control the spreading of mud and dirt into the environment during low tide. The company has also failed to monitor water quality, sediment quality, and biodiversity at the project area every three to six months as needed.

The company is also ordered to take measures to remedy the consequences, including publicly disclosing the approved results of the environmental impact assessment report as required by regulations.

The construction is currently on hold to address the shortcomings.

The controversy sparked over the weekend following the publication of aerial photos of the project by local newspaper Tiền Phong, which led to public criticism of the project's alleged violation of the protected area of Hạ Long Bay.

Cẩm Phả City authorities said the project had all the licences and assessment reports before being approved.

Nguyễn Mạnh Cường, Chairman of Cẩm Phả City People's Committee, said public remarks that this project is 'slicing up' the Hạ Long Bay was not appropriate, and that projects benefiting socio-economic development and not having impacts on the environment should be exploited.

The project is a provincial-level project, and Quảng Ninh's forest department earlier had concluded the boundaries of the project would not encroach on mangrove areas. — VNS