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PM orders rethink on river housing project

Update: June, 17/2015 - 08:20
A view of the Pegasus Residence project. — File Photo

HCM CITY (VNS) — Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has ordered the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Environment and other government agencies to reassess the environmental impact of a suspended urban project that involves filling up a stretch of the Dong Nai River in Bien Hoa city.

The Pegasus Residence project by Toan Thinh Phat JSC, which will comprise a mall, houses, five-star hotels, office buildings, and parks on a 1.3km stretch along and on the river, has snowballed into a scandal.

The PM also instructed the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to study if the project is in conformity with the law and regulations on combating and preventing natural disasters, especially its impacts on flood drainage, river currents, erosion, consolidation of the river's banks and the quality of the water.

Provide documents

The Dong Nai People's Committee has been ordered to provide necessary documents and data related to the VND3.2 trillion (over US$1.46 billion) project to reassess it.

Provincial authorities had approved the 8.4ha project in July 2014, and work of the project began last September.

Toan Thinh Phat was allowed to fill up over 7.7 hectares of the Dong Nai River for its urban area, with the rest being built on a protective corridor.

The company began to fill the river with rocks and sand in September, sparking a public outcry.

On March 28 this year, following protests also from experts and official agencies, the Government ordered suspension of the work.

In May the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment recommended that the Government should not lift the ban.

The recommendation, author-ised by Minister Nguyen Minh Quang, said the project had not stuck to the law, failed to factor in the possibility of severe flooding in the river, and its assessments of the impact on river flow were not scientifically reliable.

An inter-ministerial inspection group had found that the project flouted master planning regulations and the Water Resource Law on ensuring an escape route for floods, water flows, and river bank erosion, it said.

The project would affect water supply to Bien Hoa city as well as the Bien Hoa hydrology station for measuring water levels, it warned.

In late May the HCM City People's Committee also protested against the project, urging the Committee of Dong Nai River Environment Protection and the Dong Nai's People's Committee to consider the environmental impacts on the river's lower stretches, especially on HCM City's supply of water.

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

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