On 30 November 2006, the State Party submitted a report on the actual and potential impacts of the Cam Pha cement plant project and Cai Lan port project on the property, as well as other issues relevant to the state of conservation of the property.
The State Party reports that the Cam Pha cement plant project adjacent to the property’s buffer zone, was subject to Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), and a number of measures are being taken to mitigate impacts on the environment during both the construction and operation of the plant. For example, a retaining wall has been built on the coastal side of the project site, whose visual impact will be minimized by planting mangroves. The limestone required for the cement plant will be exploited at a quarry about 4-5 km away from the coast and will be transported to the plant by a conveyor belt. The clay required will be exploited at a quarry about 25 km away from the plant and transported by waterway. Of all other raw materials only gypsum and ore will be transported by waterway. All transporting and handling of materials has been designed in such a way as to minimise impacts on air and water.
The State Party further reports that the Cai Lan port project is far away from the coastal area of the World Heritage property. Phase 1 of the project has been implemented in two stages since 1996 and was subject to an EIA undertaken by a team of international and national experts. Stage 1, including the construction of three berths, was basically completed at the end of 2003. Mitigation measures included, for example, the use of nets and floats to prevent silt spreading and oil spilling. Construction has been strictly supervised by experts, including by monitoring air, water and noise pollution, and approved by the relevant environment authorities. Operation of Cai Lan port started in mid 2004 and mitigation measures are in place to deal with waste water, waste as well as spilled oil. There is also a plan to treat bilge water from vessels. Implementation of Stage 2, including the construction of three more berths, is planned and will include the same mitigation measures as Stage 1.
The State Party also reports on other threats to the property and ongoing efforts to address them. In order to review the management, conservation and development of Ha Long Bay’s heritage values, Quang Ninh Provincial People’s Committee held a meeting with relevant authorities in September 2006, and the State Party report provides an overview of all the policies and plans in place. For example, a number of policies and plans have been developed to control, limit and monitor the impacts of development projects in the coastal areas, also to protect remaining mangrove forests. The National Coal and Mineral Industries Group has been instructed in 2006 to implement various measures to minimise or mitigate environmental impacts of the coal industry, and coal loading and transhipping on the bay has been banned in 2006.
Similarly, there are policies and plans to address the issue of the 3 floating fishing villages in the property, with a population of about 1400. While solid waste from these villages is collected, there is no collection of liquid waste and waste food at present, which contribute to pollution of the bay. Thus, it is proposed to control and limit the number of floating houses on the bay. Aquaculture activities, which increasingly impact on the bay, are subject to various regulations enforced by the Ha Long Bay Management Authority (HLBMA) in cooperation with other relevant authorities. Strict enforcement has basically stopped coral trading and the use of illegal fishing methods in the property.
There are already 449 tourist boats on Ha Long Bay, and this number is increasing rapidly. Almost all boats are reported to collect waste water and waste, and all 73 “bed and breakfast” boats must meet environmental standards to receive a business license. Regulations are in place for tourism activities and services, and HLBMA is responsible for managing an inter-organisational team to supervise, monitor and strictly enforce existing regulations.
The State Party report concludes with priority projects planned until 2010 and a call on the National Commission of Vietnam for UNESCO, World Heritage Centre, IUCN and international community for additional financial and technical support to address the environmental issues at Ha Long Bay and to assist with training and capacity building of HLBMA staff and other relevant authorities.
The State Party submitted in March 2007, with support from IUCN Vietnam, a revised request for international assistance from the World Heritage Fund to strengthen the management capacity of HLBMA. The request is submitted for approval of the Committee in Document WHC-07/31.COM/18A.
On the invitation of the State Party, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN visited the property in December 2006, as they were already in Vietnam for a transboundary consultation workshop between Vietnam and Lao PDR. The mission noted the considerable commitment of the local authorities by the various policies and plans that have recently been put in place. However, the extent and effectiveness of the implementation of these will have to be closely monitored.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that although the Cai Lan port and the Cam Pha cement plant projects are located at some distance outside the buffer zone of the property, it would be necessary for the State Party to closely monitor these projects to ensure that all mitigation measures required by the EIAs are strictly followed to protect the outstanding universal value and integrity of the property, including from potential local acid precipitation from the cement plant’s emissions plume. It is not clear if there are contingency plans in place to deal with accidents, spills, etc. which could directly or indirectly affect the property. The State Party may also wish to consider assessing the inter-visibility of the proposed cement plant from different points within the property and/or its buffer zone.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that unprecedented increases in visitor numbers (from 850,000 in 2000 to 1,400,000 in 2005) have resulted in high tourism pressure on the property, and that there are plans for developing a tourism resort on Lam Bo Island within the core zone of the property. However, the State Party is strongly advised to reconsider and cancel this development, as it is totally incompatible with the management objectives of the core zone of the Bay. The mission also visited the Cua Van floating village and cultural centre and noted that plans for its further development by erecting large billboards, establishing a sound system, building additional infrastructure, including a bridge and road to the Doi Cave, should not be undertaken.
The other issue of concern relates to the recent introduction of water jet-skis near Titop Island which not only cause noise pollution, but are inappropriate in the tranquil setting of the core zone of the Bay. The mission learnt that there had also recently been an accident involving a jet-ski causing three human deaths. Such water sport facilities should be provided outside the property and the permission for their use within the World Heritage property should be withdrawn.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN further note the ongoing construction of a new coastal highway and are concerned that major sediment movements could contribute to excessive sedimentation of the vulnerable seafloor and corals in Ha Long Bay.