Viet Nam has dropped plans for two proposed hydropower plants that would have affected a protected area, which has been on the tentative list for possible World Heritage nomination since 2006.
Following a 2013 IUCN report advising not to inscribe Cat Tien National Park as a natural World Heritage Site, Viet Nam withdrew its application weeks before the annual World Heritage Committee meeting last June.
The report identified the hydroelectric project as a major threat, together with quarrying, unregulated tourism, illegal trade in species and poaching. It recommended taking action to protect the park’s value and building stronger management plans.
Meanwhile, the country’s Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment carried out an assessment of the dams’ environmental impact. It concluded that, if built, they would cause the permanent loss of 372 hectares of forest, including 182 hectares within Cat Tien National Park.
The assessment confirmed IUCN’s indication that the Dong Nai River’s flow would be altered, damaging the viability of wetland ecosystems in the heart of the national park and cutting down water supplies for local communities.
The ministry said that the project violates two national laws on biodiversity and cultural heritage, adding that: “the development of these projects will also be detrimental to UNESCO’s consideration to recognize the Cat Tien National Park as a World Natural Heritage site.”
IUCN, the advisory body on nature to the World Heritage Committee, visited the park late in 2012 to assess whether it met the requirements to be listed as a natural World Heritage Site.
Cat Tien National Park is recognised as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a Ramsar Site. Located in the lowlands of southern Viet Nam, it supports several types of habitats. Some globally threatened species can be found there, such as the Siamese Crocodile, Gaur and several species of pheasants and primates. It was also home to the last remaining population of the Vietnamese subspecies of Lesser One-horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) until it went extinct in 2010.
Viet Nam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung agreed to cancel the dam projects at the end of September.