According to Nguyen Chu Hoi from the Hanoi National University, Vietnam has 16 marine protection areas (MPAs), including Hon Cau, which, if well developed, will bring ‘spillover effects’, helping the biological balance in localities.
Strongly opposing the idea of narrowing Hon Cau to make room for thermal power plants, Hoi cited a speech by Vietnamese Deputy Chair of National Assembly Tong Thi Phong in Washington which emphasizes that the ocean plays a critical role in human life and that Vietnam is a maritime nation.
Hoi said that those who want to narrow Hon Cau must prove that waters cannot be protected, and Hon Cau is not the core position of the MPA.
Sharing the same view, Vo Si Tuan from the Oceanography Institute, an arm of the Vietnam Academy of Science & Technology, cited a UNEP report saying that every square kilometer of coral reef can bring $600,000 in benefits from tourism alone each year.
Meanwhile, it will be costly to recover damaged coral reefs. Maldives, for example, had to spend $10 million for every kilometer of coastline to replace damaged coral reefs.
However, despite the warnings, investors still attempt to develop a series of coal power plants near Hon Cau. At present, there is one plant operational – Vinh Tan 1. However, there would be four plants in the area by 2030 as planned by the national strategy on power development.
Hon Cau is believed to be among the MPAs with most diversified ecosystem in Vietnam with hundreds of coral reefs, 119 mollusks and 32 types of echinoderms species.
But it is being endangered by the activities of dredging passage at Vinh Tan 1 Port and sinking dredged waste, by suspended substances, sludge and sand, and by hydropower plants' cooling systems.
Tuan from the Oceanography Institute said his institute has finished the relocation of 10,000 clusters of coral reefs from coastal areas to other marine areas for dredging in preparation for the construction of Vinh Tan power plant in Tuy Phong district in Binh Thuan province.
It took six months to implement the relocation. The clusters of coral reefs have been carried to an area 5 kilometers away where they continue to expand.
However, an expert on marine life conservation said the coral relocation may bhave negative consequences to the marine environment, as it may affect the reproductive capacity of many fish species in the area.