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23,000 Signatures Sent to Region’s Leaders

On 19th October 2009, at the ASEAN People’s Forum, the Save the Mekong coalition sends to the Prime Ministers of Cambodia, Lao, Thailand and Vietnam a 23,110 signature petition urging the Mekong region’s leaders to abandon plans for hydropower development on the Mekong River’s mainstream and to work together to protect the river and pursue less damaging electricity options.

The petition is signed by 15,282 people from within the Mekong region, including 352 people from China, 30 from Burma, 616 from Laos, 7,797 from Thailand, 2,682 from Cambodia and 3,805 from Vietnam. Many of these signatories live alongside the Mekong River. The remaining 7,828 signatures came from people from fifty countries around the world.

The governments of Cambodia, Lao and Thailand are currently considering plans by Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Russian and Chinese companies to build eleven dams on the Mekong River’s mainstream. These plans are inconsistent with the ASEAN charter, including commitments to protect the environment, to use natural resources sustainably, and to preserve cultural heritage. They are also inconsistent with ASEAN’s commitment to sustainable development and attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), especially MDG1 on eradicating extreme hunger and poverty and MDG7 to ensure environmental sustainability.

At the ASEAN People’s Forum, civil society groups will call for a new ASEAN Strategic Pillar on Environment that commits the member states to place international best practices on environmental sustainability at the center of decision-making. Proposals to build dams on the Mekong River’s mainstream epitomize an out-dated and unsustainable mode of development that violates affected people’s rights and fails to ensure equitable and sustainable development. Yet, with revised energy policies in place, ASEAN could leapfrog the 1950s-era of big dams and start growing sustainable, modern economies without losing the benefits that healthy rivers bring.

The Mekong River is the world’s most productive inland freshwater fishery. Wild fish and other aquatic resources harvested from the Mekong are worth up to US$9.4 billion per year taking into account secondary industries. The fisheries contribute significantly to the region’s economy and secure the incomes and livelihoods of millions of local fishers throughout the region, which include many of the region’s poorest people.

Building mainstream dams would block the migratory fisheries that constitute around seventy percent of the total commercial catch, consequently jeopardizing regional food security, nutrition and health and seriously setting back other initiatives aimed at alleviating poverty and meeting development targets. Experience around the world demonstrates that there is no way to mitigate the fisheries impacts of such large dams.

On 18 June 2009, representatives from the Save the Mekong coalition met with H.E. Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Prime Minister of Thailand, who agreed that ASEAN has a role to play as a forum to discuss issues related to plans for dam development and impacts.

Despite the limited space for public debate, the Save the Mekong petition aims to make heard the people’s voices for protecting the Mekong as a giant food chain and cultural lifeline for millions of people.

Download the letter to H.E. Nguyen Tan Dung, The Prime Minister of Vietnam [English] and [Vietnamese]

Source: Save the Mekong

Dialogue on River Basin Management in Vietnam

Under Strategic Goal No#1, the Dialogue on River Basin Management in Vietnam was held by the Vietnam Water Partnership (VNWP) in collaboration with People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature) on 8th September 2009 in Nui Coc, Thai Nguyen. In attendance were 49 participants representative from the Water Resources Management Department of Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE); the Department of Water Resources of Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD); Institute for Water Resources Planning, Academy for Water Resources of MARD; Vietnam Mekong River Committee; representative from Department of Natural Resources Management (DONRE), Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) of Ho Chinh Minh and Da Nang cities, Bac Ninh, Bac Giang and Thai Nguyen provinces; JICA project on the Study for Water Environment Management on River Basins in Vietnam; professional associations, NGOs and scientists.

The objectives of the Dialogue are:

  • To be a platform for related stakeholders to discuss about the experiences and lesson learned from current River Basin Organization (RBO) in Vietnam and Southeast Asia countries;
  • To recommend on strengthening RBO in Vietnam context following IWRM approach in basins in order to contribute for implementing new Government Decree No. 120/2008/N?-CP on River Basin Management;
  • To heighten VNWP role in IWRM promotion.

Recommendations of the RBO follow by Decree No. 120/2008/N?-CP:

  • It is necessary to empower for RBO to manage water resources. RBO need to have enough human and financial resources or have mechanisms for financial attraction to ensure it’s operation smoothly
  • RBO should operate as a independent professional agency, complying with the national policies and legal framework. It also has power for technical recommendations which are basic to central and local governments for their decisions.
  • RBO should have mechanisms for stakeholder participation in the decision making process related to water resources development and management.
  • RBO Standing Office should have technical functions to ensure the water resources governance; objective relationship with local government; professional actions; finance allocated and locate within basin.

Source: GWP-SEA

Economic growth depletes resources

Experts have decried the excessive focus on economic development that has severely depleted the nation’s natural resource base, and called for urgent measures to redress the problem.

Ways to balance the country’s socio-economic development with preservation and efficient use of natural resources topped the agenda of a two-day conference that ended Wednesday in HCM City.

The conference on Environmental Policy in the Context of Development in Viet Nam was organised by PanNature (People and Nature Reconciliation), a Vietnamese non-profit organisation established by Vietnamese environmental professionals with support from the Ford Foundation.

Nguyen Ngoc Tran, former deputy head of the National Assembly’s External Relations Committee, said many localities had paid more attention to economic development than environmental issues. As a result, environmental pollution had seriously increased, becoming a big challenge during the development process.

Degraded ecosystems

Pham Quang Tu, director of the Institute for Development Consultancy, agreed with Tran, saying that the lack of a master plan and supervisory mechanism for natural resources exploitation had contributed to the degrading of the country’s ecosystems.

“Besides, the law on environmental protection contains many loopholes and unreasonable regulations while penalties are not heavy enough to prevent people from violating the rules,” Tu added.

Participants at the meeting agreed that in the context of globalisation, the nation’s legal system on social-economic development and environmental protection must be more comprehensive to ensure sustainable development.

Calling for investment was a top priority for developing the country, but it should not mean that the country was willing to sacrifice the environment, they said.

Tran said: “To develop sustainably, we must pay special attention to protecting the environment; and use and maintain natural resources reasonably, otherwise it would have serious consequences for our next generations.”

He suggested that relevant agencies from the central to grassroot levels co-ordinate with each other in planning investment projects and monitoring compliance of environmental protection regulations by enterprises.

Authorities should encourage the development of clean production projects to reduce adverse impacts on the environment, Tran said. He also emphasised the role of the mass media in raising awareness of the people, the community and senior administrators about the need for environmental protection.

Regarding plans by some localities to put “low-value” forests to other uses, Nguyen Chi Thanh, former director of the Southern Forest Planning and Investigation Sub-institute, recommended that they carefully conduct a cost-benefit analysis before making such decisions.

Source: Vietnam News

Workshop on the Role of Civil Society Organizations in Economic and Social Development in Mountainous Areas

“The role of civil society organizations in economic and social development in mountainous areas” workshop was organized October 21st, 2008 in Hanoi by the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations (VUSTA), in collaboration with Institute for Social Research, Center for Promoting Development for Women and Children (DWC), Center for Sustainable Development in Mountainous Areas (CSDM), Centre of Research and Development in Upland Area (CERDA), and People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature).

Workshop banner

The objective of the workshop aims to enhance awareness and exchange views on the role of civil society organizations in socio-economic development at provincial level and support for ethnic minorities in mountainous areas. The workshop introduced an overview of civil society in Vietnam as well as mechanisms to help civil society organizations connect with other state agencies to contribute ideas, analysis and discussions on policies and laws relating to ethnic and development issues in mountainous areas.

Workshop participants

In addition, CSDM, CERDA, DWC and PanNature also presented their viewpoints, development methodologies, and specific examples from field projects in order to reflect the practical lessons on socio-economic development in mountainous areas and raising awareness of local communities on development issues. Throughout these presentations, different approaches of participating CSOs became clear. DWC uses a right-based approach with participation of local communities and available resources. CERDA begins by identifying difficulties of local communities and consequently concentrates on appropriate solutions. CSDM carries out their approach through establishing and developing networks in local communities, such as performance – communication groups, traditional medicine practitioner groups, and indigenous knowledge conservation and development groups. PanNature introduced their specific view on access to natural resources after forest land allocation. The workshop ended with a round table discussion on formulating civil society organization networks, capacity of these organizations, as well as approaches for developing and operating successful networks on ethnic and mountainous issues. By Hai Van

Notice: PanNature’s office phone number changed

As of 19 October 2008, the Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) has changed all fixed phone number in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and other 53 provinces and cities by adding an extra number “3” at the beginning the current number. For more information, please visit http://www.vnpt.com.vn.

Our office numbers is automatically changed to: 04 3 556-4001 (phone) and 04 3 556-8941 (fascimile).

If you call from outside of Vietnam, our office phone number should be: ++84 4 3 556-4001; fascimile: ++84 4 3 556-8941.

PanNature

Facilitating Development of Local Environmental Protection Action Plans

In August and September 2008, PanNature conducted field surveys and organized environmental protection planning workshops in Bac Me and Hoang Su Phi districts of Ha Giang province within the framework of the Chia Se Project (Vietnam – Sweden Poverty Reduction Program, managed by the Ministry of Investment and Planning).

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In-house News: Farewell and Welcome

In September, PanNature welcomed new faces joining the team. Ms. Dao Thu Hien and Ms. Nguyen Thanh Van are experiencing start-up work in their probation terms. Both Hien and Van graduated from the Department of Environmental Science of Hanoi National University of Natural Sciences.

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Simple water filters bring clean water for villagers

This activity was firstly implemented from 30th April till 30th May 2008 in three villages namely, Khau lan (Quyet Tien commune), Lang Tan 2 (Thanh Van Commune), Lung Tam Thap (Lung Tam Commune) in Quan Ba district of Ha Giang province. It is part of the Environmental Awareness Piloting Programme implemented by PanNature for the Quan Ba District Integrated Community Development Project of Caritas Switzerland.

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Launching of the Publication “Field Guide to the Large Mammals of Vietnam”

People and Nature Reconciliation has launched the publication “Field Guide to the Large Mammals of Vietnam”. This publication is printed in both Vietnamese and English languages with financial support from the World Bank/Netherlands Partnership Program and the Sida Environment Fund (SEF).

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Journalist Worshop Discussed Development and Environmental Trade-off in Vietnam’s Context

In 29 and 30 of May 2008, in Luong Son district (Hoa Binh province), PanNature hosted the journalist workshop to share thoughts and experience with the media on the theme “Development and Environmental Trade-off in Vietnam’s Context” . Environmental experts and journalists got together, discussed and agreed that environmental values should not be sacrified merely for economic benefits.

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