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Mar 31 2012

Uniquely Vietnamese

uniquely vietnamese


Do Temple marks a turning point in Vietnam’s history


The gate of Do Temple in the northern province of Bac Ninh. Photo: Nguyen Van My

The Do Temple in Bac Ninh Province is a uniquely Vietnamese temple.

Situated around 20 kilometers from Hanoi, it is the best known and most visited temple in the country by far, which is not really surprising, as even a cursory study of its history shows.

The temple preserves most the traditions of Vietnam and also keeps almost everything people need to know about the Ly Dynasty (1009 – 1225), the first Vietnamese ruling family able to hold onto power for more than several decades, allowing them to secure and expand the territory.

“Do” means the capital city. It has as its deities eight kings of the Ly dynasty. The temple’s other names are Thai Mieu, Co Phap Dien and Ly Bat De.

It is still not explained why or how the ninth and last ruler of the dynasty, Ly Chieu Hoang, the only female one, has been left out.

Ly Chieu Hoang was enthroned when she was just eight and handed over the reins to her husband Tran Canh after two years, effectively ending the Ly Dynasty.

It has also been said that feudalism valued men more than women and that they were not to be worshiped equally.

The temple was built in 1010 by Ly Thai To, the founder of the dynasty, and restored by his son Ly Thai Tong in 1030.

Its latest renovation happened in 1989, when the temple area was expanded to more than three hectares.

Ly Thai To established the capital of his kingdom in Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh Province and then moved it to Thang Long, now Hanoi. But the temple was built in his birthplace, Dinh Bang Ward, Tu Son Commune.

At the gate of Do Temple is the full version of the written proclamation to move the capital and the change of its name from Hoa Lu to Thang Long.

Besides the main house that worships eight kings, there is one for their mothers, and two other houses for leading officials of the dynasty.

The worshipped are prominent figures in the history of Vietnam who made big contributions to the country’s stability. One of them is Ly Thuong Kiet, who in 1077 penned what is considered the first Vietnamese declaration of independence after Vietnam’s victory over Chinese invaders during the reign of Song Dynasty.

“Nam Quoc Son Ha,” the declaration, and the proclamation about moving the capital of the country are kept in the temple library.

At the back of Do Temple are a number of steles paying tribute to the contributions of the dynasty. The steles were built in 1604 by Phung Khac Khoan, a noted Vietnamese military strategist, politician, diplomat and poet during the Le Dynasty.

The temple also has many parallel sentences and horizontal lacquered boards honoring the dynasty and telling its history.

Some scholarly visitors to the temple have said there is enough material here to write a doctoral thesis.

Do Temple is among the worshipping places in Vietnam that preserves a maximum number of the country’s traditions and rituals.

One tradition is that of communal harmony, as every person in the ward joins in the temple festival.

The annual festival lasts four days around the full-moon of the third lunar month.

People in charge of the festival’s rituals are selected carefully, and great care is also taken in other aspects of the preparation including the collection of offerings and other items.

Offerings usually include a roasted bull, sticky rice and traditional cakes made from the rice – bánh chưng and bánh dày, fruits, flowers, incense sticks, rice wine, betel leaves and areca nuts.

All the offerings have to be homemade or homegrown by local people.

The festival starts in the evening of the 14th day of the lunar month with a parade to commemorate the mother of Ly Thai To.

On the main day, the next morning, which this year falls on April 5, there is a colorful and impressive parade attended by around 10,000 people.

It is followed by a series of offerings made to the accompaniment of drums and gongs.

An incense offering ritual is performed on the 16th day, when traditional games like wrestling, cock fighting, cooking and poem reading contests take place.

In 1994, the Do Temple Festival received a 31st generation descendent of Ly Thai To from South Korea.

Lee Chang Kun came to acknowledge and pay homage to his ancestors almost 800 years after the Ly family was scattered.

He wrote in a visitors’ book at the temple’s library: “With unstoppable emotions, today I return and have felt the glory of my ancestors. I swear I will never do anything harmful to the noble souls of my ancestors.”

The separation dated back to 1226 when Ly Long Tuong, a prince of the Ly Dynasty, left Vietnam to avoid the massacre of family members ordered by Chancellor Tran Thu Do, who overthrew the Ly Dynasty after arranging the marriage of the incumbent Empress Ly Chieu Hoang and his nephew Tran Canh.

Ly Long Tuong served as a general in Korea, where he was known as Yi Yong Sang, helping the king there defeat the Mongol invasion of 1253. He was also allowed to establish his own village, where the Ly generations continued to grow and several Vietnamese traditions were maintained.

The Ly family book, kept since Ly Long Tuong, proclaims on the cover: “Born in Korea, soul in Vietnam.”

Lee Chang Kun has given the book to the Do Temple. He has settled in Vietnam and gained Vietnamese citizenship.

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By Nguyen Van My
The writer is the director of Ho Chi Minh City-based Lua Viet Tour Operator

http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20120323-Uniquely-Vietnamese.aspx

Mar 31 2012

Visions of Bui Vien

visions of bui vien


Ms. Giau in front of her food cart where she has been serving locals and tourists breakfast for more than two decades

Nobody in Vietnam reacts well when I tell them I’ve been living in Pham Ngu Lao for more than four months. Tourists can’t believe it, expats scoff and either subtly or overtly, local people tend to disapprove. Sooner or later I’ll move into an apartment in District Whichever and I’m sure I’ll love it there too—but it’s gonna be hard for me to bid my beloved Bui Vien farewell. When I leave, I will not miss the bad western music blaring from every direction, but I will miss calling the Vietnamese residents of Pham Ngu Lao my neighbors.

Many of the Vietnamese families of Pham Ngu Lao have lived in their houses for generations. Now their foyers serve as hotel lobbies, makeshift bars and restaurants, snack shops or art galleries. Not long ago they were something else. Patronize a business twice and you’re considered a regular; go four times and get treated like family.

At dawn and dusk September 23 Park is full of young lovers, bohemians strumming guitars and skateboarding, families, schoolchildren and elderly Vietnamese, only a meager portion of whom find themselves directly connected to the tourist trade, outside the fact that their closest local park happens to be in the heart of the “tourist area.”

Across the hem from my hotel live a distinguished middle-aged couple and their family. The patriarch is an exceptionally dapper silver-haired gentleman who radiates repose. He and his wife run a small shop, selling water, cigarettes and cell phones out of their house. Though he’s already put a son through business school and is saving to do the same for his daughter, he sells his wares for a bare minimum of profit. We talk nightly about the state of the world and the state of the neighborhood he’s lived in all his life. Like so many Vietnamese here, he accepts the pain and pleasure of development with equal magnanimity. Amidst the insane blare of Bui Vien, Mr. Kien can be found tending shop with his nose buried in a book on Buddhism, philosophy, physics or all three. On Gregorian New Year’s, he pulled me aside and offered heartfelt prayers of good luck, health and prosperity to me and my girlfriend, and to our families in America, unlike any I’ve ever received from anyone in my life.

Across the street, in front of the new Mini-Stop convenience shop, hang Mr. Xieu and his xe om crew, Sang, Dung and Duong. They all drive smooth as a rhapsody—not too fast, not too slow, avoiding every traffic jam and pothole possible. Xieu is a highly respected man amongst the community and often carries large sums of money for local people to and from banks and such. Like many of my friends here, I found him several years ago. I never take for granted the indelible service he provides for me when I need it. He and his team not only memorize the schedules of innumerable expats, waiting for them, coordinating to ensure they’re picked up later, but they help tourists turned expats find jobs and apartments, warn us of things to look out for and greet us warmly umpteen times a day whether we need a ride or not.

I eat breakfast everyday at a small food cart run by a 50-something-year-old woman named Giau—Shop Giau has been operating near the corner of Bui Vien and De Tham streets for more than two decades now. Her menu has only a few items dominated by fresh baguettes and the city’s best omelets, loaded with onions. Though Giau speaks as little English as my girlfriend and I do Vietnamese (close to none), she treats us like we were her own children, reciprocating our customer loyalty with motherly doting. She now makes rice everyday for my girlfriend, who’s allergic to gluten.

She’s been frying up eggs at her tiny mobile food cart 364 days a year, for more than twenty years. This year she invited my girlfriend and I to accompany her to a pagoda for Tet on the lone day she takes off work. She’s a saint, but each week I watch several tourists verbally assault her over VND5,000 and shoot her disgusted looks for her inability to understand their Germanic accent.

I bow my brow to the Giaus of Bui Vien, the mobile fruit shake ladies, the rail thin cyclo drivers, the men and women hawking incredible food, a million vendors eking a living as best they can assembling and dissembling entire restaurants and storefronts each day. Most of them already quasi-outlaws the government would just as soon eliminate. But they represent the thin red line standing between Vietnam and the soul-crushing strip malls of American suburbia.

The last time my girlfriend and I were here, she had to return to the US for health reasons. Vietnam probably had little to do with her ailments, but our local friends all but took responsibility anyway. It was the street food, the weather, the pollution, they said. I stayed on Bui Vien for three months without her and not a day went by without a dozen local people inquiring about how she was feeling, genuinely worried and concerned. They were not asking in general, but inquiring for specific changes since the last time they asked, the day before. It was enough to make me want to hold local press conferences every time we talked on Skype.

Cynicism doesn’t get you far here, but if you’re able or willing to simply behave like a human being, say please and thank you, you’re treated like royalty. You don’t even need to learn Vietnamese. Just learn to say “no problem” or how to order your tea and coffee in the local tongue, and people react as if you’d just recited an entire Ho Chi Minh speech in perfect Vietnamese. Try telling somebody passing out flyers that you already have one, in Vietnamese, and see the reaction you get.

http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20120323-Visions-of-Bui-Vien.aspx

Mar 31 2012

Caravelle launches various promotions for sweet, holy April

caravelle launches various promotions for sweet holy april

Ho Chi Minh City’s luxurious Caravelle Hotel will offer sweet and religious treats this April, highlighted by a Liberation Day celebration and its monthly Carnival at the Saigon Saigon Bar.

Easter Brunch on Sunday, April 8 will serve cooked-to-order dishes from a wide array of local and international specialties including seafood, barbequed and roasted meat, in addition to imported cheeses.

The dishes will be complimented by a free flow of Margaritas, Martinis and Spanish and Argentinean house wines.

Diners will be charged VND1,144,000++ (US$55) per person for the brunch at the Nineteen Restaurant on the ground floor of the hotel, 19 Lam Son Square, District 1.

From April 18-24, the famous Pavlova cake will be available at the hotel’s Lobby Lounge, also located on the ground floor.

The meringue-based dessert was named after the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova, whose visit to a hotel in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1926 inspired the hotel’s chef to create the dish, according to her biography.

Each freshly baked cake costs VND118,000 ($6), including a choice of toppings which include cream patisserie, caramelized bananas, toffee, almonds, sliced kiwi, pistachio powder, white chocolate shavings and roasted hazelnuts.

The hotel’s rooftop Saigon Saigon Bar on Saturday night, April 28, will bring back the Cuban-themed Carnival party with potent cocktails, samba dancers in costume and non-stop music from Cuban bands - Luna Negra and Warapo.

Partygoers are encouraged to bring their masks and Carnival costumes.

The month of promotions will wrap up with a buffet celebration for Vietnam’s Liberation Day on April 30.

An exquisite spread of Eastern delicacies including cooked-to-order seafood and meats will be accompanied by premium coffee and tea among desserts.

The buffet will be served at the Nineteen Restaurant for VND1,400,000++ ($67) a person.

Caravelle also dedicated one entire week of the month, between April 20 and 26, to fresh lobster from central Vietnam’s resort town Nha Trang.

The lobster will be served with Taittinger champagne at Reflections Restaurant on the third floor at a cost of VND720,000 ($35) per half lobster and VND1,450,000 for a whole lobster.

http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20120323-Caravelle-launches-various-promotions-for-sweet-April.aspx

Mar 30 2012

Six Senses wins honor, announces new spa service in central Vietnam

six senses wins honor announces new spa service in central vietnam

Evason Ana Mandara, a Six Senses property in the central Vietnamese province of Khanh Hoa, has been honored as the country’s highest-ranked hotel and resort for the fourth consecutive year.

The honor came as the resort on the private beach along Nha Trang’s Tran Phu Boulevard was listed once again in the Conde Nast Traveller Gold List.

Six Senses Spa in Khanh Hoa has also announced that it will be the first in Vietnam to launch a full professional and retail range of oxygen detoxification treatments as of December 23.

http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20120328-Six-Senses-wins-honor--announces-new-spa-service-in-Vietnam.aspx

Mar 30 2012

Ben Tre to celebrate the coconut

ben tre to celebrate the coconut

Local merchants trading coconuts wholesale by the Ham Luong River, Ben Tre Province

Known as “the coconut land,” the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre will launch a week long festival featuring its characteristic fruit from April 4-10.

One of the key activities at the 3rd Ben Tre Coconut Festival is a food and beverage festival that offers dishes made from coconuts such as coconut candies, coconut rice cakes and mut dua (slices of coconut meat coated with sugar).

However, since locals use coconut not only to make desserts, more than 40 food stalls are to offer visitors a variety of coconut-based main dishes which include the fruit’s water, buds and meat in their recipe.

Tep rang nuoc cot dua (shrimps roasted with coconut water), tom luoc nuoc dua (prawns boiled with coconut water), banh xeo (rice pancakes with batter mixed with coconut water), and goi cu hu dua (pork and prawns mixed with coconut buds and vinegar) are among the specialties.

In addition to the variety of recipes, an exhibition of furniture, handicrafts and other products made from coconuts is expected to show visitors how local people make clever use of the fruit whose trees take up more than 30 percent of the province’s agricultural area.

Another main feature at the annual festival is an installation exhibition placed on a 250-meter long road which presents typical images of from the Vietnamese countryside like boats, river wharfs, rice fields and coconut trees.

It also displays traditional houses of the Ben Tre people like those which were built in accordance with the Chinese character ding (). Visitors will have a chance to learn more about traditional trades like the manufacture of rice paper and coconut rice cakes, as locals will reproduce the tasks involved in their daily jobs at the exhibition.

To those visitors wanting to indulge further in observation of provincial coconut trades, the organizer will offer tours of coconut orchards and places where coconut products are made during the festival.

Interested visitors can take free buses from the festival’s venue in Ben Tre Town to attend fieldtrips to Mo Cay Nam, Mo Cay Bac and Chau Thanh districts.

Other festival activities will include creative contests for local students, a coconut-inspired fashion show, and a seminar on coconut values.

WHAT TO DO?

Exhibition of coconut products and Trade fair 2012: at the Sao Mai Residential Area, Ward 7, Ben Tre Town. Begins: 6 p.m., April 4. Ends: 10 p.m., April 9

“Coconut road” installation display: at Hung Vuong Park, Ward 7, Ben Tre Town. Opens: 9 a.m., April 5. Closes: 10 p.m., April 9.

Coconut Food Festival: at Hung Vuong Park, Ward 7, Ben Tre Town. Starts: 9 a.m. April 5. Ends: 10 p.m. on April 9.

Tours of coconut orchards: Free buses will leave from the food festival every hour each day from April 5-10. The first trip leaves at 9 a.m. and the last one leaves at 2 p.m. Return trips are scheduled between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

- Ben Tre – Mo Cay Bac – Mo Cay Nam tour: visit a garden of green coconuts – a coconut candy and handicraft manufacturer – a maker of coconut fiber threads – back to Ben Tre

- Ben Tre – Chau Thanh tour: visit a coconut candy manufacturer – a garden of aromatic coconuts – a traditional coconut candy maker and a fruit garden – Tan Thach communal house, built in 1841 and recognized as a national relic site in 2001 – back to Ben Tre

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http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20120328-Ben-Tre-to-celebrate-the-coconut.aspx

Mar 30 2012

Vietnam luxury hotel to flip switch for Earth Hour

vietnam luxury hotel to flip switch for earth hour

Ho Chi Minh City’s famous Caravelle Hotel will turn off its lights for Earth Hour, starting at 8:30 p.m. on March 31 to demonstrate its commitment to being a leader among environmentally friendly hotels.

Candlelight will be used at the Reflections Restaurant, the Nineteen Restaurant, the Saigon Saigon Bar and the Lobby Lounge.

The hotel is encouraging guests and has called on its staff and partners to participate in the annual lights-off event.

Earth Hour, the world’s largest voluntary action for the environment, was observed by 1.8 billion people in 5,251 cities worldwide last year.

Other historical landmarks in Vietnam scheduled to participate in this year’s Earth Hour are Hanoi’s Turtle Tower and Hue’s Trang Tien Bridge.

Since 2008, the Caravelle Hotel has taken various steps in the name of environmental protection, including the purchase of a US$75,000 wastewater treatment facility that recycles 40 percent of the property’s water.

In 2011, the hotel achieved an ISO certification for environmental management and the Silver Certification by EarthCheck, a top benchmarking program used by the travel and tourism industry.

http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20120330-Vietnam-luxury-hotel-to-flip-switch-for-Earth-Hour.aspx

Mar 30 2012

Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay officially named New Wonder of Nature

vietnams ha long bay officially named new wonder of nature

A Switzerland-based foundation, which initiated a four-year global poll to select seven new natural world wonders, has announced that Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay is among the winners that has passed its validation process.

According to New7Wonders Foundation’s website, Ha Long Bay in the northern province of Quang Ninh has been officially named a new wonder of nature together with Iguazu Falls at the border of Brazil and Argentina, Jeju volcanic island off South Korea, and Puerto Princesa Underground River in the Philippines.

Recognition of the Komodo National Park in Indonesia, South Africa’s Table Mountain, and the Amazon Rainforest in South America is still provisional as the foundation’s vote validation process is underway, the website said.

A Vietnam News Agency report Friday quoted New7Wonders Chairman Bernard Weber as saying that they hoped the victory will help heighten Vietnamese people’s awareness of the need to protect their natural landscapes.

Asked if Vietnam will have to pay monthly fees to the organization, Nguyen Van Tinh, chief of the Department of International Cooperation under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, replied in the negative.

Meanwhile, Jean Paul De La Fuente, director of New7Wonders, said in the report that they have never charged any country that has won the recognition.

They only charge paid by countries or localities that participated in the campaign was the US$199 registration fee when it was launched, Fuente said.

Ceremonies marking the recognition will be organized in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay on April 27 and May 1 respectively, the news agency said.

Launched in 2007, the New7Wonders of Nature campaign started with more than 440 locations from about 220 countries. Finalists were chosen by phone and SMS voting.

http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20120330-Vietnam-officially-named-New-Wonder-of-Nature.aspx

Mar 30 2012

Vietnam may remove deposit rate ceiling by July

vietnam may remove deposit rate ceiling by july

Vietnam’s central bank may remove a ceiling on deposit rates in June or July, a state-run newspaper reported on Tuesday quoting the governor, a move that could give banks more flexibility in raising funds as well as in setting lending rates.

The State Bank of Vietnam also aims to cut the rate ceiling by an average 1 percentage point each quarter or sooner if liquidity improves and inflation continues to slow, Governor Nguyen Van Binh told a government meeting on Sunday, according to the Vietnam Economic Times newspaper report.

Inflation in March slowed to an annual rate of 14.15 percent, from 16.44 percent in February, and the consumer price index rose just 0.16 percent from February, the slowest increase in 20 months, government statistics show.

On March 12 the central bank cut key rates on dong loans and deposits by 1 percentage point, the first cuts in nearly three years, and Binh was then quoted as saying commercial lending rates could now fall, helping businesses.

The central bank currently caps interest rates on dong deposits for one year or more at 13 percent and dollar deposits at 2 percent.

Commercial lending rates now stand at around 17-20 percent, a level that analysts said has prevented investment and hindered economic growth. With easing inflation and March’s rate cuts, expectations are for lending rates to also ease, they say.

“If inflation continues to slow as expected and the government does not lower the regulated savings deposit rate cap of 13 percent too quickly, we forecast that real interest rates should become positive next month,” the bank JP Morgan said in a report issued on Monday.

It projected Vietnam’s annual inflation would slow to single digits by May while full-year inflation would be 10.3 percent for 2012 after a jump of 18.7 percent last year.

The country’s economic growth in the first quarter slowed to a three-year low of 4 percent as domestic demand weakened and local industries grappled with high inventories.

The central bank last week asked lenders to bring down lending rates following cuts in major interest rates as the government aims to ease the burden on businesses.

On Sunday Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and government officials met to consult with more than 30 Vietnamese scientists and economists on macro economic policies, especially those in finance, monetary sectors.

http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20120328-Vietnam-may-remove-deposit-rate-ceiling-by-July.aspx

Mar 30 2012

Dong weakens on news of new forex regulation

dong weakens on news of new forex regulation

The dong has edged down since early last week after the central bank said it will require commercial banks to cut their dollar holdings from early May, prompting a scramble for the greenback.

The State Bank of Vietnam set the exchange rate for the US dollar at VND20,828 Wednesday, unchanged since late December. Meanwhile, prices of the US dollar offered by commercial banks have increased since early last week.

The Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam, known as Vietcombank, bought the US dollar for VND20,800 a dollar, and its asking price was VND20,860 a dollar on Wednesday, up from VND20,770 and VND20,850 respectively a month ago.

General Director of Eximbank, Truong Van Phuoc attributed the higher dollar price to increasing demand for the foreign currency after new requirements on the foreign exchange rate.

The State Bank of Vietnam requires lenders, from May 2, to keep their long foreign exchange position at no more than 20 percent of their equity by the end of each day, compared with 30 percent now.

Branches of foreign banks with equity below $25 million will be required to keep their foreign exchange positions at no more than $5 million on a daily basis, the central bank said.

Experts said some banks, seeing the new regulation as a move aiming to prevent dollar hoarding in the country, have strengthened buying dollars over the past week.

Cao Sy Kiem, former governor of the State Bank of Vietnam, said the new rule means a bank with equity of VND3 trillion will be allowed to hold $30 million worth of US dollars at the end of the day, compared to $45 million at present.

Kiem said previously not all banks used up the 30 percent limit, with some even having a foreign exchange position of under 20 percent after converting their dollar holdings into the dong and earning high interest from deposits in other banks.

Now that there is a new regulation which will give the banks much less room to hold the dollars, they are rushing to strengthen their forex holdings again for fear it might be difficult to do so later.

The interest rate on dong deposits is capped at 13 percent each year, while that on the dollar is only 2 percent.

The dollar hike is also attributed to the large demand among firms due to the big gap between lending interest rates of dollar and the dong, according to the CEO of a Hanoi-based commercial bank who wanted to remain anonymous.

Now, banks are offering dollar lending interest rates of some 5-7 percent each year, while the dong rate is some 18-20 percent, he said.

Kiem said the dollar price hike is a short-term phenomenon, as firms, in the later part of the first quarter will need the greenbacks to pay debts or import materials that will be used for production in the next quarter.

The exchange rate will go down in a short while with firms not expected to have much demand for dollars, he said, explaining that a lower trade deficit is anticipated this year.

Experts have said businesses will reduce imports due to unfavorable economic conditions. Furthermore, the central bank has stepped up measures to control the gold market, which ultimately reduces demand for dollars.

Meanwhile, another regulation from the central bank that will also come into effect in May will restrict lending in foreign currencies, helping reduce dollar demand further.

Under the regulation, commercial banks are only allowed to offer loans in US dollars to borrowers who can prove that they have an adequate source of revenue in foreign currency from their business operations to clear the loans.

Businesses failing to meet the requirement can only access bank loans if they have specific approval from the central bank, the rule stipulates.

The central bank aims to have the dong depreciate by no more than 2-3 percent against the dollar this year. The local currency fell 5.2 percent in 2011.

Warren Hogan, chief economist of bank ANZ, reckons that the dong may weaken to VND21,800 per dollar by the end of this year.

http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20120328-Dong-weakens-on-news-of-new-forex-regulation.aspx

Mar 30 2012

Test-run of Vietnam’s first alumina plant in June: official

test run of vietnams first alumina plant in june official

Vietnam will operate the country’s first alumina plant on a trial basis this June, instead of April as initially planned, a senior plant official said.

Tran Duong Le, deputy director of the Lam Dong bauxite-aluminum complex’s management, said the Tan Rai alumina plant in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong will be officially put on a trial run in middle this year before moving into full production.

In early December 2011, alumina production was delayed until the first quarter of 2012 from an earlier target for the end of 2011 after rains held up construction.

The Tan Rai refinery is designed to have an annual production capacity of 600,000 tons of alumina, a white powder made from bauxite ore that is used to produce aluminum.

The US$700-million project is invested in by the state-owned mining group Vinacomin under the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

It has for long been a topic of controversy in Vietnam, with protesters claiming the project poses safety and environmental threats. The controversy heated up further after an accident in Hungary.

On October 4, 2010, a reservoir containing toxic waste burst at an alumina plant near Ajka, Hungary sending a wave of red sludge into the surrounding area, killing nine people and injuring 150 more. The sludge was identified as a byproduct of refining bauxite into alumina, the raw material used in manufacturing aluminum.

The incident added further fuel to those opposing Vietnam’s first alumina project.


The Ministry of Industry and Trade and Vinacomin defended the project’s safety features, touting the multi-chamber design of its toxic sludge reservoir.

According to the plant’s management, the plant is designed with eight chambers to contain red sludge and a dam to prevent possible spill.

However, last September, inspectors from the Lam Dong Province’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment found that chemical substances had leaked from the Tan Rai plant in Bao Lam District.

Rains washed the substances into the plant’s drainage facility before running into a large fish pond owned by some local residents.

Tests showed the lake’s water had excessive pH content, the inspectors said.

Inspections have been carried out since August after local people lodged complaints with the Bao Lam District authorities that fish had died in massive numbers in the lake because of water pollution.

The lake also supplied water for tea and coffee farms for some households and another company in the area.

Duong Van Hoa, deputy general director of Vinacomin, blamed workers’ carelessness for the incident.

According to Hoa, neglectful workers left the sacks containing sodium hydroxide outdoor and when it rained, rains washed away the substance.

Following the incident, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai ordered Vinacomin to take precautionary measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade also asked the group to draft plans to tackle accidents in case of chemical leakages at the project.

Vinacomin has also been developing another alumina project in Dak Nong Province, which neighbors Lam Dong. The Nhan Co project has a projected initial annual output of 600,000 tons of alumina.

http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20120330-Test-run-of-first-alumina-plant-in-June.aspx

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