With Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc calling on HCM City to “urbanise the district while preserving its mangrove forests,” the city plans to solicit investment in the district, especially in major projects like the Can Gio Sea Encroachment project, Can Gio Bridge, an upgrade of the Rung Sac route, and building a ferry port.
They also aim to boost sustainable development of services, agriculture and the marine economy, protect the mangrove forests and build the district into an international entertainment and tourism area.
Nguyen Huu Hiep, chief of the HCM City Mass Mobilisation Commission, has urged the district to shift its economic structure from agriculture to services and trade, promote the marine economy and tourism, and make tourism a key industry.
The city also plans a number of major urbanisation projects in Can Gio.
They include the 3.4km Can Gio Bridge on the Soai Rap River between the district and the rest of the city.
A high-speed boat service will be operated between Bach Dang Wharf in the downtown area, the district and neighbouring Vung Tau city.
A proposed helicopter charter service between downtown and Can Gio will cater to local and international tourists.
A sea bridge between Can Gio and Vung Tau will also be built by 2025.
Nguyen Thien Nhan, Secretary of the municipal Party Committee, said urbanised Can Gio would become a popular tourist destination for both local and international visitors.
The district is expected to contribute to the city’s economy by creating more jobs and bringing large sums of revenues, he said.
Can Gio’s tourism development has been relatively slow since it can only be reached by ferry, but the construction of the huge bridge linking it with the rest of the city will make it easier to reach.
The district has recently seen a 50 percent average increase in the number of visitors per year.
Sea encroachment project
The PM has approved the US$9.3 billion Can Gio Sea Encroachment Project, which is expected to help create 25,000 jobs and bring significant revenues for the city.
It will be developed in the coastal Long Hoa commune and Can Thanh town on an area of 2,870ha by the Can Gio Tourism Urban Area Joint Stock Company.
It will be situated some 18km from the famous Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve, close to the Xoai Rap and Long Tau rivers, 17km from the Vam Sat Eco-Tourism Area, and 4km from Monkey Island.
Le Minh Dung, Chairman of the Can Gio People’s Committee, said some 228,500 people are expected to live in the area while nine million tourists would visit annually.
“The new tourism urban area would help [the district] become a major regional and international tourism spot.”
When completed, it would contribute VND2.9 trillion (US$124.36 million) a year to the city’s coffers.
Environmentalists have, however, warned that the urbanisation of Can Gio should be considered carefully since it is vulnerable to the impacts of rising sea levels, erosion and subsidence.
They also point out that the UNESCO-listed Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve is a crucial buffer against coastal erosion and storm-induced coastal flooding, and thus should be spared development.
Architect Ngo Viet Nam Son also stressed the importance of preserving nature in the area, especially the mangrove bio-sphere.
However, Nguyen Xuan Hai, director of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s environmental impact assessment department, said: “The project is in compliance with Vietnamese laws and UNESCO’s legal framework.”
The investor needs to do further studies on the risks caused by extreme weather and erosion in forest lands to ensure the ecological integrity of the mangrove forests during the long period of construction, he added.
Dr Nguyen Chi Thanh, director of the Vietnam Forest and Wetland Research Institute, said the developer must ensure there is “no negative impact on the reserve’s environment and bio-diversity.”
Can Gio district is the only area bordering the sea in HCM City.
It has tourist attractions like Monkey Island, Hang Duong Seafood Market, the Vam Sat Ecological Tourist Area, and Rung Sac (Sac Forest) listed by UNESCO as a world biosphere reserve.
Can Gio is also well-known for its annual Nghinh Ong (Whale Worshiping) Festival recognised as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Studies have shown that the Can Gio mangroves help filter grey water from upstream and regulate flood flows.
One of the world’s largest rehabilitated mangrove forests also serves as a green lung and a bulwark shielding the city from storms and extreme weather.