HCM City safari progresses at snail's pace

Update: August, 10/2015 - 07:49

The Cu Chi District People's Committee has paid 684 households compensation of VND560 billion, or 97 per cent of the sum allotted for the purpose. — Photo baodansinh

Compiled by Le Hung Vong

Delays in land clearance have put the Sai Gon Safari Park, once expected to become one of the largest eco-tourism facilities in Viet Nam, on hold for the past 11 years.

In 2004 HCM City authorities earmarked 485ha of land in Cu Chi District's An Nhon Tay and Phu My Hung communes for the safari. They also instructed Sai Gon Zoo, which has been entrusted with the project, to clear the land and resettle some 705 families who needed to move out to make way for it.

The Cu Chi District People's Committee has paid 684 households compensation of VND560 billion, or 97 per cent of the sum allotted for the purpose.

Almost the entire area was cleared by 2007 but the issue of compensation for the remaining 21 families slowed the project to a crawl. A number of households remain unsatisfied to this day with the compensation offered and refuse to move out. Some 246 families have registered for resettlement housing but the area is not ready yet.

According to Vietnam Investment Review, though barbed wire surrounds the area, it remains unused, weed-covered and with vestiges of razed houses.

"If the project cannot progress, the city should return the land, which has been left fallow for over 10 years, to residents for farming," Lam Thi Hieu, a local, affected by the project said.

"It's a big waste of land."

Parts of the cleared areas have been illegally occupied again by locals even as many of them have filed complaints about the compensation, she told VIR.

The delay in acquiring the site was one of the reasons for Singaporean contractor Bernard Harrison & Friends Limited to withdraw from the project in 2013.

Speaking about the progress of the safari and construction of the resettlement area, Le Minh Tan, chairman of the Cu Chi People's Committee, said these issues are the zoo's responsibilities and "the district has fulfilled whatever it was required to do."

But Pham Quoc Hung, chairman of the zoo, said, "Between 2012 and 2014, the company had to return the money earmarked for the project because the district agencies could not disburse the compensation."

To put the safari project back on track, at a meeting in May Le Hoang Quan, the chairman of the city People's Committee, instructed the city inspectorate to review all complaints related to land compensation.

The meeting aimed to identify each agency's responsibility with regard to the delay and illegal occupation of the acquired lands.

Quan also asked the Department of Interior Affairs to consider a joint-venture between Sai Gon Tourism Corporation (Saigontourist) and the zoo to speed up the work.

With a total estimated cost of US$500 million, the park will focus on wildlife conservation, exhibition, and breeding of rare animals and plants.

It will have an open zoo, a night safari, a butterfly park, a botanical collection, a nature museum, a fauna and flora research centre, a picnic site, a resort, and support facilities.

Bio-fuel at the pump

By November 30 this year all petrol stations must stop selling A92 petrol and replace it with E5 bio-fuel — a mixture of 95 per cent petrol and 5 per cent bio-ethanol, produced mostly from corn and cassava — according to Dang Vinh Sang, general director of oil giant Saigon Petro.

E5 will be sold at all filling stations, officials from the HCM City Department of Industry and Trade confirmed at a meeting with fuel suppliers last week.

The department's deputy director, Le Ngoc Dao, said the city already had 55 filling stations totally selling 4,523 cubic metres of E5 a month, or 3 per cent of total petrol sales.

A survey by the Department found consumers making "positive" comments about the quality of E5 and efficiency of vehicles using it.

A department spokesman said the lack of awareness of bio-fuel is one of the challenges facing efforts to promote its consumption.

Moreover, most petrol stations in the city are small and without tanks for stocking E5.

Though the bio-fuel is of the same quality as traditional fuels, it costs VND500 per litre less than A92 petrol and VND1,000 less than A95 petrol.

But Sang said the price should be further lowered to make it more attractive for vehicle users.

Nguyen Hoai Giang, chairman of the company that manages the Dung Quat oil refinery, said "The use of E5 not only contributes to environmental protection but also to the consumption of cassava for local farmers," he added.

Phu Quoc zoning plan

Kien Giang Province authorities drafted a master plan for setting up a special economic zone on Phu Quoc Island and submitted it to the Ministry of Planning and Investment for assessment in late 2014. It was subsequently presented to the Politburo and the National Assembly for approval.

Updates on the long-awaited plan were revealed at a review meeting in Can Tho city on last week by a working group in charge of devising support policies and mechanisms for the development of Phu Quoc Island.

In May this year the group sent officials to Macau to learn from its experience in developing special economic zones, especially for finance, services, ports, and casinos, Nguyen Phong Quang, head of the working group and deputy head of the Southwest Steering Committee, said.

He said these experiences would be applied to develop the district island.

Le Van Thi, chairman of Kien Giang and deputy head of the working group, said the plan for developing Phu Quoc Island was appraised by the Prime Minister before it was presented to the Politburo by the Government.

According to Thi, after the Prime Minister issued a decision on a special development mechanism for Phu Quoc in December 2013, the island has been upgraded to a grade-two town.

The facilities it has, including a seaport, airport, clean water supply, access to the national power grid, and a north-south road, are expected to help attract more investors and boost tourism. — VNS