Quang Ngai Province shelves UNESCO geopark recognition plans
Despite having prepared a dossier for the UNESCO recognition of the Ly Son-Sa Huynh Global Geo-Park last November, local authorities have shelved plans to apply for the park's recognition after years of efforts.
|An overview of Ly Son Island, off Quang Ngai Province coast. Despite being listed in the dossier for UNESCO recognition of the Ly Son-Sa Huynh Global Geo-Park, Quang Ngai Province plans to stop the project after years of preparation. — Photo courtesy of Bui Thanh Trung|
Chairman of the Quang Ngai provincial People’s Committee, Dang Van Minh, confirmed the province was ending the recognition efforts at a press conference on Wednesday, stating the park, which covers 4,600sq.km, would be used for various socio-economic development purposes.
He said the province had a working session with the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism on the assessment of the park, and the provincial Party standing committee would give a decision on the halt of development activities related to the park later.
“Yet a final decision was made by the provincial Party standing committee and I personally agreed to stop the park development,” Minh said.
The province established the Ly Son-Sa Huynh Geopark in 2015 before preparing for global status recognition by UNESCO from 2017.
The Ly Son-Sa Huynh Global Geopark recognition was set to be decided upon by UNESCO at the general meeting in Jeju, South Korea last November, but the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic put paid to those plans, authorities said.
The province suspended all field activities on the park’s file completion process and scientific research in March last year.
“It’s a pity but it’s like that. So much work has been done and so many illusions were made. The suggestion is to create the UNESCO geopark obviously,” general secretary of the Global Geoparks Network and chairperson of the UNESCO Global Geoparks Council, Guy Martini, told Việt Nam News.
|Farmers collect salt in Sa Huynh salt field in Quang Ngai Province. The site has emerged as an eco-tour and community-based tourism in preservation of culture, history for sustainable development. — Photo courtesy of Sahu Company|
“I have to say is that considering the huge investment already realised from 2017 by the Quang Ngai People’s Committee, thousands of working hours realised by the team, and more than 100 sites with already all the equipment designed (panels, parking, leaflets, posters, videos, etc) as well as the involvement of many local communities (for example, Go Co Village in Sa Huynh). Everything has been readied and already approved unofficially by UNESCO. The geopark project has to go on and get another UNESCO recognition for Vietnam (and for this area),” Guy Martini said.
“There is a great misunderstanding from Quang Ngai People’s Committee of what is a UNESCO Geopark, which can't limit industrial zones or urban zones if these projects are legal and follow Vietnamese environmental legislation,” he added.
“Working with a UNESCO Geopark needs to ensure a dialogue to try to find the best compromise solution in function of the different interests in presence, but this dialogue has never existed with Quang Ngai People’s Committee,” he explained.
According to the management board of the Ly Son-Sa Huynh Geo-Park, the dossier was sent last November for official recognition by UNESCO, and an expert team was assigned to evaluate the value of the Ly Son-Sa Huynh Geo-Park, but the plan was delayed by the pandemic.
Many pieces of scientific and geological research on the Ly Son-Sa Huynh terrain and cultural value were reported at an international conference in 2019, contributing to the dossier before it was submitted to UNESCO.
Experts from the Vietnam Institute of Geo-sciences and Mineral Resources said it takes five to seven years to complete a dossier for geopark recognition, and about seven parks in the world are approved by UNESCO each year.
Top Vietnamese archaeologists, geologists, volcano researchers and historians agreed that the Ly Son Islands, 30km off the coast of Quang Ngai Province, were formed by ancient volcanoes that existed more than 25 million years ago.
|Local fishermen go fishing in the wetland forest in Binh Son District of Quang Ngai Province. The site has rich biodiversity and is part of the Ly Son Sa Huynh Global Geopark previously seeking recognition by UNESCO. — VNS Photo Cong Thanh|
An area of 4,600sq.km, including more than 2,000sq.km of sea, covering nine districts and islands, was included in the area for global geopark recognition.
The recognition of Ly Son-Sa Huynh as a Global Geo-Park would have promoted the unique culture, rich biodiversity and extinct volcanoes around Ly Son Islands.
Vietnam has three global geoparks recognised by UNESCO – Dong Van Karst Plateau in the northern province of Ha Giang (in 2010), Cao Bang Geopark (2018) and Dak Nong Geopark in 2020.
The Ly Son-Sa Huynh Geo-Park has been listed in the dossier for UNESCO recognition, and the organisation can send an evaluation mission in 2020,
Bui Thi Van, 62, and her family has lived in a thatched roof brick cottage in the Co fishing village for 27 years.