|About 96 per cent of the total area had been cleared by 2007 to make room for the project. — File Photo
HCM CITY (VNS) — Land clearance delays have put the Sai Gon Safari Park Project, once expected to become the country's largest ecotourism facility, on hold.
The Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee allocated 485 ha of land for the project in 2004. It also asked the Sai Gon Zoo and Botanic Garden to carry out land clearance and resettlement for more than 700 households in An Nhon Tay and Phu My Hung communes in the city's Cu Chi District.
About 96 per cent of the total area had been cleared by 2007 to make room for the project. But sluggish site clearance procedures and compensation for the remaining 4 per cent have slowed the project to a crawl. A number of households are still unsatisfied with their compensation and refuse to move out.
VnExpress reported that although barbed wire surrounds the project, passersby can still see the unused, weed-covered grounds. Parts of the cleared areas have been illegally occupied by people, water buffalo and rows of vegetables.
Doan Van Xuan, who resides in An Nhon Tay's Bau Dung Hamlet, said people in the area have expressed discontent over the hundreds of hectares left to languish over the past 11 years.
He said the city should return the land to local residents for farming if the project must be abandoned.
Singaporean contractor Bernard Harrison & Friends Limited has been picked for the project, which is still in the planning and negotiating stages, an official from the Sai Gon Zoo and Botanical Garden company told Tuoi tre (Youth) newspaper.
This information was confirmed by another official, who asked to remain anonymous.
At a meeting late last month, Le Hoang Quan, chairman of the HCM City People's Committee, asked the city inspectorate to work with relevant agencies to review all complaints related to land clearance compensation. It also needed to clarify the responsibility of all concerned parties regarding the delay and illegal occupancies.
The inspectorate should submit a report on the matter to the city's authorities by the end of the month, Quan said.
He also asked the Department of Interior Affairs to consider a joint-venture between Sai Gon Tourism Corporation and Sai Gon Zoo and Botanic Garden to speed up the project's implementation.
With a total estimated cost of US$500 million, the park will focus on wildlife conservation, exhibition, and breeding of rare plants and animals.
The facility will be home to an open zoo, a night safari, a butterfly area, a botanical collection, a nature museum, a fauna and flora research centre, a picnic site, a resort and other supporting facilities. — VNS