Golf courses – a boon or bane?
  • | VNS | May 08, 2012 05:59 PM
The Lap An lagoon in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue was once famous for its plentiful marine resources and diversified ecosystem, thanks partly to a large area of mangrove forests that surrounded and protected it. 
 Lap An Lagoon is destined to become a part of a golf course
 New mangroves have been planted in Lap An lagoon

However, this precious resource, already depleted by aquaculture and an asphalt road, is in danger of being destroyed completely to make way for a golf course.

An asphalt road running around 800ha of Lap An lagoon has been built in recent years where mangrove forests once stood. The forests had been destroyed earlier for aquaculture by local residents.

The end result is that the lagoon has lost the protective function served by mangrove forests.

"Around 20 years ago, the mangrove forest stretched from the gate of my house for a hundred metres towards the lagoon. But to get roads and electricity, the forest is gone. It's the price (we have paid) for development," Luong Diem, a resident of Lang Co town told Viet Nam News.

Now, it has become difficult for him to catch crabs, fish and other seafood.

"In the past, I could get a full bucket of crabs after walking for an hour, but I cannot do that even after a whole day now," he said.

Around 95 percent of mangrove forests in the lagoon have been destroyed for aquaculture and the remaining five percent (around five hectares) will be sacrificed for a golf course.

"If the golf course is built and forest is gone, aquaculture can no longer survive," said Truong Van Tuyen, director of the provincial Fisheries Association's Community Development Centre.

Mangrove forests provide ideal habitat for most seafood creatures to reproduce and grow. Now, these seafood resources have seriously declined because the forests have disappeared and the lagoon is polluted by untreated wastewater from Lang Co town.

To improve the situation, the Lang Co Fisheries Association was established early last month with the aim of protecting the environment for seafood and providing a stable livelihood for the fishing community of around 600 people.

"The mangroves are gone and has taken with it several kinds of seafood including the oyster," said Mai Truc Lam, chairman of the association.
Some fishermen have belatedly realised the importance of mangroves and are replanting the trees themselves in the hope of returning to the old days of plentiful seafood.

They are not alone in their work. The Mangroves for the Future (MFF) programme, which aims to protect coastal ecosystems, has donated VND480 million (US$23,000) to protect and replant mangroves in the lagoon.

"The most important work in the project is to increase awareness about mangrove forests among all residents here," said Tuyen.

Tuyen is right, because many of the residents still hold on to the belief that the golf course will make them rich, creating more jobs and increasing the market for seafood.

"Mangroves are important but development is much more vital. The golf course can change our lives," said Nguyen Van Tay, who owns a large aquaculture farm.

He believed that aquaculture farmers only need to "sacrifice" for the first two years of the project, waiting for investors to complete a wastewater treatment system for the golf course, after that, aquaculture production would soar and enter a golden period thanks to increased demand from tourists.

Tay was not aware that each day, a golf course would need several thousand tonnes of water and dump three to four tonnes of chemicals to maintain its lawns every year, polluting the soil as well as ground water resources.

"The answer here is to seek the best solution to develop the golf course but promote mangroves for environmental protection at the same time. This is a common issue for every project in Viet Nam," said Nguyen Chu Hoi, head of the governing body of MFF Viet Nam.

"Finding a win-win solution is a target for our project and it will be a good experience for subsequent projects," he said.

Hoi also said that a law to protect mangroves was necessary because the forests could not be restored after being destroyed.

"The law should limit the current uncontrolled deforestation of mangroves," he said.

Before the law is passed and takes effect, Luong Diem has a new job: to take care of 2,000 mangrove seedlings in order to restore the forest as part of an MMF Viet Nam project.

He said, hopefully: "I would like to see the familiar green of mangroves again in my beloved Lap An lagoon."

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