Ha Long Bay is such a beautiful place, a tourist spot visited by everyone who makes it to the north of Viet Nam . Tourism here has created tons of jobs and business opportunities for the locals. The unique landscape which is probably taken for granted by them, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I often wonder what it means for Halong Bay to be on this list, if anything. I’ve been reading some of the documents on their website and it states that Halong Bay has “geological and geomorphologic value” and that it “requires protection for all of humanity.” On my latest trip, I’ve been convinced that tourism is having a deep impact on the environment there.
Most people visit Halong Bay to see the rock formations and caves as well as to have a relaxing holiday after a year or period of work. I some times go to Ha Long Bay with friends for one night, two days and just love it. I love kayaking around the beautiful calm water, through the caves, and onto little beaches. It’s awesome but of course, the only way to get out onto the bay is by motorised boat. On my trip recently, I noticed fifty or more boats. Each of them is carrying a dozen or so tourists on most days of the year. The bay is being polluted by petrol and oil which can be clearly seen on the surface of the water in parts. Nowadays, there are so many tour operators working in Ha Long Bay with the same itineraries, meaning hundreds of people are stopping and travelling through the same waters and caves. I’ve seen people flicking cigarette butts into the water and leave plastic bags and bottles lying around. It makes me sad and angry.
The other problem is over-fishing, another industry which provides employment and a livelihood for the families who actually live floating on the water. A seafood meal aboard one of the boats is a highlight for visitors, of course.
There are lots of problems to solve but the decisions have effects that will be far-reaching. Someone needs to do something about the pollution and the amount of tourism even though it provides work for the local labor force. Tourists numbers rose from 200,000 in 1995 to 1,700,000 in 2002. This year the number is higher. It will only grow more in the future.