Awareness Survey and Assessment on the Environment and Coastal Natural Resource Management of Soc Trang Province

Soc Trang is a poor coastal province in the south east of Vietnam. In the past, a discontinuous belt of natural mangrove was situated along the coastal line of the province and along the Dinh An and Tran De estuaries where the Mekong River (also known as Hau River) flows into the sea. Mangrove forests are only found in three districts: Cu Lao Dung, Vinh Chau and Long Phu. The mangrove ecosystem and coastal resources are very important for sustaining local livelihoods, local environmental security and local socioeconomic development.

Some of the mangrove forests in Soc Trang were destroyed during the American War (also called the Vietnam War, 1958-1975), and then recovered through natural regeneration and new establishments on mud flats, and new plantations. In the last two decades the mangrove forests have been seriously decreased due to the expansion of shrimp farming, agricultural production and coastal dyke construction. Thousands of hectares of mangrove forests in Soc Trang have disappeared which has:, reduced their protective functions; caused a decline in marine resources and resulting in increased damage and forest cover loss caused by strong waves, tidal actions and natural disasters. These changes negatively impact local incomes, worsen local living conditions, and raise additional social difficulties and conflicts. Existing environmental and socio-economic problems are caused by the absence of sustainable solutions for managing, using and protecting coastal natural resources, including mangrove forests. In particular, local authorities did a poor job in carrying out their responsibilities in terms of law enforcement to challenge
problems arising from the expansion of shrimp farming, which has been promoted as a priority for local economic development.

To solve those problems, Soc Trang Provincial People Committee has worked in cooperation with the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) to implement the project “Management of Natural Resources in the Coastal Zone of Soc Trang Province”. The Soc Trang Forest Protection Sub-department is the focal point for executing and implementing this project. The goal of the project is for the coastal wetlands of Soc Trang Province to be protected and sustainably used for the benefit of the local population. Therefore, the project specifically aims to promote coastal co-management mechanisms among resource users (local community, shrimp farmers) and local authorities from the commune, district and provincial levels.

To achieve the project objectives, it is of greatest importance that local authorities and social organisations have sufficient knowledge and understanding of sustainable management of coastal natural resources (Result 5). In addition, local authorities, social organisations and the local community must have proper awareness of environmental issues (Result 6). To verify these outcomes, the project has to collect baseline data using a field survey in the project area. This survey will help to assess the awareness of local authorities, social organisations and local villagers towards the environment and management of coastal natural resources. This survey also creates a good opportunity for training and improving the capacity of project staff at districts in terms of awareness assessment, data analysis and interpretation skills.

PanNature was selected to implement the activity “Assessment about the awareness of coastal zone management and general environmental awareness in Soc Trang Province”. From 5-20 May 2008, three PanNature researchers worked in cooperation with project counterpart staff at the province, district and commune levels to carry out assessment activities in Soc Trang City and the districts of Cu Lao Dung, Vinh Chau and Long Phu. This technical report presents the results of the field survey. It describes the local awareness on environmental issues and management of coastal resources of different target groups of Soc Trang Province.

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