From: Associated Press
Published March 17, 2005 12:00 AM

UNESCO Designates Vietnam's Cat Ba Archipelago a Biosphere Reserve

HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam's Cat Ba archipelago has been designated as a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO, a move expected to help preserve the area's natural resources amid expanding tourism and development, officials said Thursday.


The area in northern Vietnam is popular with tourists who often visit Cat Ba Island while touring Vietnam's picturesque Halong Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin. The island has a national park, limestone mountains and a number of caves and beaches.


The area also has several endemic wildlife species, including the golden-headed langur, one of the most endangered primates in the world.


"Now with the recognition by UNESCO as a world biosphere reserve, we hope and believe Cat Ba will be able to better protect its resources to develop into an attractive tourist destination," said Tran Trung Dung, director of the Haiphong Administration of Tourism.


International conservationists have expressed concern over the area's rapid development and lack of planning, and the strain it places on the delicate ecosystem. The UNESCO designation divides the area into three zones to help better protect natural resources, Dung said.


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"It is true that there are some construction (projects) that do not follow the regulations of the authority," said Nguyen Van Thanh, vice chairman of the Haiphong People's Committee. "To better manage the area, the city authority has increased the decentralization or delegation of power more to the district level ... we also increased the inspection to ensure the observation of the construction regulation."


Thanh said plans also have been made to ensure there aren't water and power shortages on Cat Ba Island.


The UNESCO designation was made in Paris on Dec. 29, but Vietnamese officials didn't make an official announcement until Thursday.


Source: Associated Press


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