Vietnam bans coal shipping in Halong Bay heritage area
HANOI - Vietnam has banned coal shipping in Halong Bay to reduce industrial pollution in the World Heritage-listed island seascape, industry officials said.
"We have decided to stop all coal shipping activities in Halong Bay to protect the environment, from November 1," said Pham Trung Hung, head of the Vietnam National Coal and Mineral Industries Group (Vinacomin).
The group has also agreed with Quang Ninh provincial authorities to move all coal ports to Bai Tu Long Bay, 50 kilometres northeast of Halong Bay, he said.
UNESCO has in the past raised concerns about threats facing the area 160 kilometres (100 miles) east of Hanoi in the Gulf of Tonkin. These include the rapid expansion of floating fishing villages, tourism infrastructure development and industrialization.
"We are delighted about (the decision)," said Chu Shiu-Kee, Vietnam chief of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
"Coal loading and unloading in the World Heritage buffer zone has been an issue we have been requesting the provincial government to do something about.
"It's not just making the water dirty with coal dust. The shipping concentrated in those areas has also caused other kinds of pollution."
Halong Bay, a group of 1,600 mostly uninhabited limestone islands and islets, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994.
Agence France Presse - October 31, 2006.