The government of Vietnam has approved a $9.3bn housing development and tourist resort at Can Gio, a 760 sq km mangrove forest 40km south of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC).
The project is being developed by the Can Gio Tourist Urban Joint Stock Company, a subsidiary of Vinhomes, the second largest public company in Vietnam. The centrepiece will be the Can Gio Tourist City, a 2,870ha urban quarter built mainly on reclaimed land.
The plan, which has sparked opposition from groups concerned about the mangrove forest, is to create housing for 230,000 people and hotel space for up to 9 million visitors a year by 2031.
Up to now, the region has been relatively cut off from the rest of HCMC as it forms a kind of island at the outlet of the Saigon River. However, work on a $230m, 3.4km cable-stayed bridge is planned to begin in 2022.
The idea of a tourist city in Can Gio was first proposed in 2000, but no progress was made until Vinhomes took over the project and increased its planned size from 821ha to 2,870ha.
The development is being seen by the Vietnamese government as a way of countering the fall in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The proposal has been opposed by environmental groups. Last month, 23 environmentalists, academics and researchers sent a petition to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City, the legislative National Assembly calling for an independent assessment of the project.
Environment news website Mongabay reports that the petition said the tourist city posed "a serious threat to the Can Gio mangrove forest, which in turn may lead to serious harm to the urban regions of HCMC, whose population and authority are already facing major environmental challenges such as pollution, floods and land collapses".
The petition, which is now online, has been signed by more than 5,900 people at the time of writing.
Image: Can Gio is one of the world’s largest rehabilitated mangrove swamps (Dreamstime)