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Among the potential solutions to this issue is the harmonisation of exploitation and conservation of the national natural and geological heritage to promote tourism.
Endowed with rich natural and mineral resources, Vietnam is working along this direction to make the most of its natural and geological heritage for socio-economic development.
Advantages of nature
According to UNESCO, geological heritage are geological sites that have outstanding scientific, educational, artistic and economic value. They include geomorphic landscapes, volcanoes, palaeographic remains, natural caves, abysses, lakes, waterfalls and places where geological processes can be viewed. Such relics cannot regenerate so they must be preserved, managed and exploited in a suitable manner.
Geological relics can be classified as natural or man-made. Natural relics take form during natural geological processes while human activities shape the other.
According to Vietnam Geological Museum Director La The Phuc, Vietnam has three UNESCO-recognised geological relics. They are the World Natural Heritage Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh province, World Natural Heritage Phong Nha–Ke Bang in Quang Binh province, and Dong Van Karst Plateau Global Geopark in Ha Giang province. In addition, there are numerous sites under survey or have been submitted to UNESCO, including Cat Ba archipelago (Hai Phong province), Trang An ecological complex (Ninh Binh province), and Ba Be Lake (Bac Kan province). With conservation and management, tourism in these provinces has developed drastically, generating trillions of VND in revenue each year.
|Ha Long bay. Chinhphu.vn|
Solutions for man-made geological relics
Despite the clear economic benefits that geological relics can bring, studying man-made geological relics is a new issue in Vietnam.
Nguyen Anh Tuan, an official from the General Department of Geology and Minerals of Vietnam, said minerals are being aggressively exploited in almost all provinces in the country. Besides the economic outcomes, serious environmental problems are emerging, affecting Vietnam’s sustainable development.
After researching ways to utilise geological relics, and studying the experiences of foreign countries, Vietnamese geologists have proposed solutions to turn exhausted mines into geological relics for the purpose of tourism. Several mines, including Na Duong and Ha Tu coal mines, will be developed under this model.
Located in the northern province of Lang Son, Na Duong colliery opened in 1959. During its operation, miners and scientists discovered large numbers of fauna and flora fossils with high scientific value.
The leaders of Na Duong mining company have said they will make it a tourism spot after exploiting the coal. The company has located dumping grounds, planted trees and collected fossils for a future geological museum.
In the next 30 years, following the end of mining activities in Na Duong, the site will become an impressive ecological tourism site where visitors can enjoy the natural beauty and learn about geological development.
Many other mines in Vietnam plan to adopt this model in their future development plans.
Expanding the effective model
According to geologists, planning and preparations are needed from the beginning if this model is to succeed. Among thousands of mines operating on an industrial scale, almost no mine originally planned to become a geological relic - probably because the concept is still too new.
Information is still hard to find and there is no legal basis on the issue. Other reasons might be the huge economic pressure to earn profits that override the need of sustainable development.
Proposals to expand and improve the socio-economic value of this new model have been suggested. For new mines under construction, geological relics should be taken into consideration as well as environmental safety and climate change. As for those operating, supplementary plans should be carried out to transform them into tourist spots once mining comes to an end. Moreover, it is necessary to issues more legal regulations to preserve, manage and develop geological relics in a sustainable manner.