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PM decides not to build highway through UNESCO biosphere

Dong Nai Culture and Nature Reserve. Photo by VnExpress/Phuoc Tuan

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has approved a transport ministry proposal not to build a national highway through a nature reserve in southern Dong Nai Province.

The Ministry of Transport said in a letter to PM Chinh last July that it was not feasible to have a part of National Highway 13C run through the Dong Nai Culture and Nature Reserve.

Instead, it suggested a bypass in place of the highway section.

Previously, a plan proposed by Binh Phuoc Province, Dong Nai’s neighbor, had over 40 kilometers of a 86-km highway running through the UNESCO biosphere reserve.

A road already exists and runs through the nature reserve but remains just a small path that autos and trucks cannot use.

The new project is to upgrade that path, making it a part of National Highway 13C that connects Binh Phuoc with the Long Thanh International Airport, now under construction in Dong Nai Province, and the Cai Mep-Thi Vai Port in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province.

If the highway is to have two to four lanes then 44 hectares of forest in the Dong Nai reserve will have to be cut down.

Dong Nai Province had earlier sought opinions reconsidering the plan from various sources including UNESCO, raising concerns about the impact of the highway on forests and wildlife habitats.

The ministry recommended in the July proposal that a bypass could be built around the reserve connecting Dong Xoai Town, the capital of Binh Phuoc, with Ring Road No.4.

It will run in a circle through Ho Chi Minh City and the industrial provinces of Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Long An and Ba Ria – Vung Tau, home to the seaport hub of Vung Tau.

The bypass will cost VND530 billion (US$22.7 million) and run for 71 km, according to the ministry.

It is the “shortest distance and will cost the least” of all options that avoid passage through the reserve, the ministry said.

The Dong Nai Culture and Nature Reserve, which spreads over 100,000 hectares, is part of the Annamite Range ecosystem.

It was named a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2011.

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