Published: Sunday 30 April 2000

Conservationists and environmentalists are worried that the construction of Vietnam's second major north-south highway could have a devastating environmental impact.

Although acknowledging the economic importance of the highway, Frank Momberg of the Fauna and Flora International, however, said that Vietnamese authorities should re-route some sections in order to avoid some of the country's most pristine natural areas. "According to the present plan, the highway cuts through at least 10 protected areas, including Cuc Phuong, which was inaugurated by Ho Chi Minh himself," he said.

Momberg further pointed out that the highway would also cut through Phong Nha, which is awaiting listing by the United Nations ( un ) as a World Heritage Site, and Bach Ma, Vietnam's oldest national park.

Meanwhile, construction of the 1,700 km-route highway, linking capital city Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City in the south, has already begun. The project, costing us $380 million, is scheduled for completion by mid-2003. Work is proceeding at a rapid speed specially after last year's massive floods in central Vietnam severely disrupted traffic between the north and south.

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