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Than Tho Lake, located 60km east of the city center, used to be an attractive destination.
Tourists wishing to visit the lake may be attracted by a brief introduction on the province’s official website lamdong.gov.vn: “Than Tho Lake is quiet and surrounded by a picturesque landscape. A pathway along the lake appears to disappear into the far distance. Slight winds and sighs from the pine trees are an indispensable part of the lake.”
“The glory days were 10 years ago,” said Phan Thi Kim Dung, a 10-year employee at the beautiful spot.
We had similar feelings as we saw a great deal of seaweed and rubbish filling the lake, and noticed the pungent smell of herbicide in the area.
Although the management board of the spot has struggled to clear garbage, a lot of rubbish coming from the nearby Thai Phien flower greenhouse is often brought into the lake after a heavy rain.
Water scares horses
Statistics from Lam Dong’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment show that the water in Cam Ly waterfall contains high levels of organic and microbiological pollutants.
The waterfall, 2km from the city center, is one of least visited beauty spots in Da Lat. A local official did not hesitate to tell us that the polluted waterfall is not environmentally safe enough for tourists.
“I used to have a strong attachment to this waterfall, with lovely memories from my life. I come back to the falls to regain good memories but I have to cover my nose with my hand. It’s so sad,” Nguyen Hoang Thieu, a Da Lat native, who is currently living in Hanoi, told Tuoi Tre when he visited the waterfall on May 24.
Meanwhile, Tran Thuy Duong, a tourist from Ho Chi Minh City, expressed her disappointment about the trip: “I often tried to avoid the unpleasant smell emanating from the water. I did not dare breathe in the air. I left the waterfall after 15 minutes, including the time I took to buy a ticket.”
An employee who rents horses to tourists for entertainment said the animal no longer drinks the polluted water because they often suffer stomach problems after drinking it.
Nguyen Duc Nhat, the deputy director of the waterfall, looked helpless when asked about it.
In 2011, the tourist area’s board of directors invested VND1.4 billion to build a dam to regulate water, which later turned out to be a dam to stop rubbish, Nhat said.
Waste-water from hundreds of sewers reportedly flows into Cam Ly waterfall each day. The falls also fills up with plastic bags, corpses of animals and herbicide bottles.
Some iconic tourists attractions are also downgraded by encroachment like the Valley of Love.
The valley, 6 km far from the city centre to the Northeast, was recognized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism as a national-level tourist attraction in 1990. The tourist hotspot receives hundreds of visitors per year. In 2011 alone, it welcomed 512,000 visitors and had a turnover of VND16 billion (US$767,000).
Recently, however, the valley was damaged by underground tunnels drilled by illegal tin miners.
In October 2011, the management board found a 130m long tunnel system under the valley. The tunnel is built firmly, propped up by pine wood and lit by electric lamps. It is also well equipped with ventilation, electric supplies and drainage pipe systems.
Recently, local authorities discovered another tunnel, 60 meters in length with three entrances leading to the site. The tunnel is propped up by iron bars and is covered by metal sheets.