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Story Publication logo December 21, 2021

Ho Chi Minh City Asking for Forest Land for Island Development (Vietnamese)

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An investigation into how 1,000 hectares of forests in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, have been...

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This story excerpt was translated from Vietnamese. To read the original story in full, visit Nguoi Dothi. Our website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.


Phu Loi Island, also known as Thanh An Island, is the administrative center of Thanh An commune, Can Gio district, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). Out of its total area of 48 hectares, 31 hectares are natural mangrove protection forests. The city government has been preparing a dossier to submit to the Prime Minister for permission to convert all protection forest land on the island to another classification, in order to build houses and factories, and develop tourism for the only island commune of the most populous city in Vietnam.

The article explored the “trick” of reclassifying forest land to be exploited for other purposes, which has been employed not only in HCMC but also in many other provinces in the country.


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Currently, Phu Loi Island has a total population of nearly 3,500. Its inhabitants are distributed over the18-hectares area of the two hamlets Thanh Hoa and Thanh Binh.

It takes less than 30 minutes to walk the length of these hamlets, where houses are crammed together. It has been just over a year since the authorities started to allow locals to renovate and expand their houses. These days cement and sand used for renovation can be spotted throughout the small and peaceful island. A poor island commune with low-lying land which is often flooded by high tides, Phu Loi was off the grid until 2015 when underground cables to the island were established, helping to gradually change people's lives here. But water still has to be carried over by barge from the mainland. Perhaps that is why the desire to develop more prosperously is not only shared among islanders but also among the leaders of Ho Chi Minh City.


The western area of Phu Loi Island where alluvial deposits have accumulated over the years. This is where land reclamation and dyke construction activities will take place in order to build more fortified dykes. Image by Le Quynh. Vietnam, 2021.

Ms. Nguyen Thi Hong Dao and her son. Like Dao, the majority of young people who reside on Phu Loi Island go to school far away or go to work as laborers in Ho Chi Minh City and neighboring provinces. Image by Nam Phong. Vietnam, 2021.

The southern tip of the island, where an additional cruise ship bridge is expected to be built. Image by Nam Phong. Vietnam, 2021.

The jetty at Phu Loi Island. Image by Nam Phong. Vietnam, 2021.

The southern tip of the island, where an additional cruise ship bridge is expected to be built. Image by Nam Phong. Vietnam, 2021.

The residential area and the remaining forest area of Phu Loi island. More than 31 hectares of forest in Phu Loi island are not only protective forests but also belong to the Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve. Image by Nam Phong. Vietnam, 2021.

A dyke made from fortified stone runs from the west to the southern tip of Phu Loi Island. Image by Nam Phong. Vietnam, 2021.

The daily life of the people of Thanh An Commune. The vast river space and stunning scenery of the Go Gia - Giong Chua area make ecotourism a promising opportunity for Thanh An Commune. Image by Nam Phong. Vietnam, 2021.

An area west of the island is being reinforced and expanded as part of the urban renovation activities in Thanh An Commune. Image by Le Quynh. Vietnam, 2021.

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