Illegal hotel on northern highlands scenic spot to be demolished
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Illegal hotel on northern highlands scenic spot to be demolished Illegal hotel on northern highlands scenic spot to be demolished
A controversial hotel built illegally on a bend in the Ma Pi Leng Pass of Ha Giang Province will be demolished and turned into a rest stop.

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     Ma Pi Leng Panorama Hotel and Restaurant offers a panoramic view of the landscape and Nho Que River that flows below. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.
Parts of the Panorama Hotel and Restaurant that do not affect the landscape can be retained and remodeled into a rest stop for visitors without accommodation and other services, and the rest of the structure would be razed.

Hoang Chinh, director of Ha Giang's Department of Construction said Tuesday that a proposal to this effect has been made to the provincial government.

Ma Pi Leng Pass was recognized as a national scenic spot in 2009, and the hotel lies within its buffer zone. The 20-kilometer pass connects Ha Giang Town, Dong Van District and Meo Vac District in the northwestern province of Ha Giang. Its name in the Hmong ethnic group's language literally means "bridge of a horse’s nose."

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At 2,000 meters above sea level, the pass rewards visitors with magnificent views of the jade-colored Nho Que River below. Photo by VnExpress/Xu Kien

Chinh explained that since the hotel is in a rural area that lacks detailed construction planning, no construction permit was required, but it failed to submit three documents: a permit converting the land from agricultural to commercial, an investment certificate and the construction design for authorities to assess its safety and environmental impacts.

"The responsibility (for allowing the hotel to be built) firstly goes to Meo Vac District," Chinh said, but did not elaborate on any follow-up action that might be taken.

The building is "not environmentally friendly and partly destroys the landscape."

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The Ma Pi Leng Panorama Hotel and Restaurant in Meo Vac District, Ha Giang Province. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Chinh also noted because no design was submitted, an evaluation couldn’t be conducted, and therefore, its safety cannot be guaranteed when it gets crowded.

However, Vu Thi Anh, the owner of the building, claimed she built it following the local officials’ appeal for tourism-boosting investment. She said the authorities had evaluated its safety.

Work on the building began in 2018 and it opened early this year.

Anh admitted that she had not been granted permission to build the hotel, but maintained that it was worth preserving and did not deserve to be boycotted.

Mua Hong Sinh, vice chairman of Meo Vac District, said allowing the illegal construction to take place was "the responsibility of the district's Party unit and the authorities." He did not specify who the "authorities" were.

He said that after the construction started, the district officials had repeatedly asked the investor to stop and complete the prescribed paper work, but they were ignored.

The provincial Department of Construction on Tuesday proposed that Meo Vac District renovates the building, demolishing all the upper floors and turning the basement and first floor into a rest stop where visitors can enjoy the view.

Experts from UNESCO had previously advised the authorities to turn the spot into a rest stop, and their advice will be acted on now, said Nguyen Quang Hung, deputy director of the department.

The district has been asked to complete the demolition and construction before November 15. The investor has also been asked by the department to submit the missing papers within 60 days.

Ha Giang Province will consult with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism about the building violations and take due follow-up action, officials said.

While the building is not located within the designated national scenic spot, it could affect the landscape and ecosystem of the Ma Pi Leng.

Vietnam's Heritage Law stipulates that for constructions that are likely to adversely affect the natural landscapes and environment of a particular heritage, they must have a written evaluation by a competent state agency, something that the Panorama Hotel does not have.

The hotel is not the first encroachment of national heritage spots by illegal construction work.

In July 2017, a family business opened a tourist site within the Trang An Landscape Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the northern Ninh Binh Province. It took authorities almost a year to shut down the business in March 2018.