News

Localising conservation in Vietnam

PanNature is trying to use wide experience, varied skills and contagious motivation to help lead a community-based movement to preserve Vietnam’s natural heritage and promote sustainable development nationwide. We interviewed Trinh Le Nguyen (TLN), the founder of the organisation on the occasion of 6th year since its establishment.

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The Battle Over the Mekong

Chinese dams threaten one of the world’s most biodiverse rivers, critics say. It’s not just environmentalists who are worried.

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Revised Law to Better Preserve Minerals

The management of the exploration and exploitation of natural resources should be strengthened to preserve valuable assets for younger generations, according to attendants of a conference in Ha Noi last week.

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Mekong conundrum: does dammed mean damned?

The roaring currents of the Mekong have long enchanted travellers, inspired explorers and sustained about 65 million people living off the world’s largest freshwater fisheries. But environmentalists warn that the “Amazon of Asia” – the river with the second-richest biodiversity in the world – is under dire threat from hydropower dams, including the latest to be proposed: the Xayaburi dam in Laos.

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Save the Mekong Call: Cancel Xayaboury Dam on Mekong River’s mainstream, Halt MRC PNPCA Process

In a letter addressed to Mr. Jeremy Bird, CEO of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), the Save the Mekong coalition calls on the Mekong region’s governments to cancel the Xayabouri Dam planned for the Mekong River’s mainstream in Xayabouri Province, Lao PDR, …

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PanNature’s Nguyen Thi Hai Van Joins the Capacity Advancement Fellowship at Revenue Watch Institute

The Revenue Watch Institute has introduced its new Capacity Advancement Fellows for 2010-11: Maria del Carmen Pantoja Mendez of Grupo FARO in Ecuador, and Nguyen Thi Hai Van of People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature) in Vietnam.

The Capacity Advancement (CA) Fellowship, currently in its third year, aims to build the capacity of mid-career civil society activists by deepening their understanding of the extractive industry and broadening their skills to connect local, national and international campaigns. After training and research in New York City, fellows are expected to return to their organizations and coalitions with specific knowledge and skills that will enable them to better meet current challenges and develop broader training, advocacy and research agendas. The program targets key individuals to develop a cadre of future leaders for extractive industry transparency campaigns.

RWI CA Fellows Nguyen Thi Hai Van and Maria del Carmen Pantoja Mendez.

During this year-long program, fellows investigate international best practices for extractive resource management and the current role of local and international civil society organizations in promoting change. During the first half of the program, from August 2010 through January 2011, CA Fellows will work from Revenue Watch’s offices in New York and take part in day-to-day RWI project activities, related classes at leading academic institutions, and donor and civil society networking events. Fellows will also receive hands-on support for original research and personal mentorship from an industry expert. After they return to their home organizations, CA Fellows will implement a project based on their research and learning experience in New York, with the continued support of their program mentor. Revenue Watch will publish a short report from each fellow online at the culmination of the term, highlighting what was learned.

Maria del Carmen Pantoja Mendez is a graduate of the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador in Economics and received a Revenue Watch fellowship to participate in the “Specialization in Extractive Industries: Monitoring and Sustainable Development” program at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. She has worked on analyzing public policy with a focus on fiscal, economic and social issues in government and private organizations. Since July 2009 she has worked as an investigator in the Public Finance Department of Grupo FARO in Ecuador. During these years she principally collaborated as a researcher, monitoring oil revenues, networking and doing advocacy. Her work includes the analysis of gender policy, local government transparency and social investment with the collaboration of organizations as UNIFEM, UNICEF, GTZ and FUNDAR.

Before Grupo FARO Maria conducted research for the Quito Chamber of Commerce and was a member of the Analytic Research Advisor Group of the Ecuadorian Statistical Institute. She is an activist who seeks to strengthen public policy through better economic planning and greater social equality. She aspires to become a policy maker in the future. Her goal through the CA fellowship training is to learn more about the administration of fiscal instruments such as funds as well as to gain a better understanding of contract issues that can be applied to Ecuadorian extractive sector restructuring.

Nguyen Thi Hai Van received a Bachelor of Environmental Science with honors from Hanoi National University, College of Science in 2008. She currently works as a policy researcher for the nonprofit People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature) in Vietnam, where she coordinates projects on environmental protection and natural resource management and conducts advocacy and capacity building work on environmental law monitoring.

Van has coauthored a number of policy briefs on environmental impact assessment, prosecution for environmental crimes and biodiversity conservation in Vietnam, among other topics. While at Revenue Watch, Van will be working with the RWI Revenue Transparency Index team to research levels of transparency in Vietnam. In addition her research will focus on the environmental externalities of mining, the economic impact of the extractive sector and contract transparency. After the fellowship, Van seeks to increase awareness of transparency and Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative issues within government and civil society in Vietnam.

Source: http://www.revenuewatch.org/news/news-article/ecuador/revenue-watch-welcomes-new-capacity-advancement-fellows-ecuador-and-vietna

VietnamNews: Dam-building threatens Mekong environment

HA NOI — Economic development on the Mekong River is short-sighted and unsustainable, environmentalists heard at a meeting in Ha Noi yesterday.

The meeting, entitled Mekong: Energy – Environment – Livelihood Security, was co-organised by PanNature, a Ha Noi-based non-profit organisation; the Viet Nam Rivers Network, comprising civil society groups, academics and community-based organisations; and the Henry L Stimson Centre, an independent, non-profit, public policy institute.

Delegates heard that the biggest threat to the future of the river, its fauna and flora, was the need to dam the Mekong for hydro-power. The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta in Viet Nam was particularly vulnerable, participants heard.

The 4,800km Mekong flows through six countries – China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam. The Lower Mekong Basin in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam is home to more than 60 million residents from more than 100 different ethnic groups. Most of them are poor farmers and fishermen, whose livelihoods are dependent on the river.

Photo: ThienNhien.Net/PanNature

Representatives from PanNature said the Mekong is home to a diverse array of fish fauna, worth billions of dollars, that provide food security for poor communities in the river’s 795,000sq.km basin.

Participants heard that economic development and poverty alleviation were threatening the livelihoods of those who made a living from the river.

Participants watched a 15-minute video-clip entitled Mekong – The Tipping Point, that highlighted the dangers of damming the river for hydro-power projects.

Timothy Hamlin, from the Henry L Stimson Centre, said that development in Viet Nam need not threaten human security and regional stability.

About 50 participants from key government agencies, Vietnamese NGOs and research institutions attended the meeting.

Source: Vietnam News

Illegal bush-meat, wildlife trafficking at alarming levels

QUANG NINH — Viet Nam’s ecosystem was seriously threatened by the widespread consumption of wild meat and trafficking of wildlife, experts said at a recent conference.

Urgent action was needed on several fronts to prevent this destruction of the nation’s wildlife and their habitat, they said.

They called for strengthened, more effective public awareness campaigns against hunting and trafficking in wild animals and for the inclusion of this subject in the school curriculum, especially in rural areas.

Tom Osbon of the Viet Nam-based Wildlife Management Office stressed the need to legalise multi-sectoral co-operation in preventing, discovering and punishing forest violations in order to protect wild animals effectively.

“It is also very important to establish special inspectors in localities which record a high number of violations,” he added.

Dr Scott Roberton, head of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), said that hunting wild animals for meat and trafficking had been happening in many countries, especially developing ones.

In Viet Nam, hunting and trade in wild animals had been alarming, he said.

A WCS study conducted at 200 restaurants in the central region found they consumed nearly 2 million wild animals per year. Among them, stag and wild boar accounted for around 70 per cent of the consumed meat, followed by turtle, snake, fox and porcupine.

The study estimated the demand of wild animal consumption nationwide at nearly 4,500 tonnes per year.

The Forest Protection Department discovered 1,042 violations of wild animal protection laws last year, a decrease of 400 cases over 2008, the conference heard.

Dr Nguyen Viet Dung, deputy head of the Centre for People and Nature Reconciliation, said that the real number was much higher.

Roberton added that Viet Nam was also an important link in the international wild animal trafficking chain.

Last year, authorities found more than six tonnes of elephant tusks trafficked from Africa to Hai Phong City.

And, in 2008, more than 20 tonnes of pangolins (anteaters) and their scales were seized in Viet Nam as they were being trafficked from Indonesia to China.

The Mong Cai Border Gate was one of places where wild animal trafficking is frequent.

Over the last two years, authorities have discovered 57 cases of trafficking in wild animals involving more than 7,612 individuals including monkeys and Tibetan bears and elephant tusks.

Source: Vietnam News

Socio- economic development, urbanisation pressures Vietnam’s rivers of life

Socio-economic development and urbanisation exert more and more pressure on Vietmam’s river systems every day, as national stakeholders too fail to co-ordinate their conservation efforts, according to the Vietnam News Agency.

As urbanisation increases and industrial parks are being built almost everywhere, the rivers condition has become an increasingly public concern, as well as topics of many environment conferences.

There was a claim saying that conferences attended by scientists are not attended by government officials, who do not have a single clue what transpired at the conferences, for them to make policy change to conserve the nation’s rivers.

According to the Vietnam news agency’s report, the government agencies, to some extent, have made many attempts to prevent the damage to rivers by industrial factories.

However, their effectiveness is limited because at the same time there are investment assessments for more industrial projects underway along the river.

The agencies do not know how to proceed with big pollution cases such as when the monosodium glutamate producer Vedan polluted the Thi Vai River.

“Rivers are vital to the environment and human life” was the message from a conference on the health of rivers and the work to protect river basins held in late October at southern Dong Nai Province’s Cat Tien National Park.

More than 65 attendants, including environmentalists, scientists, low-ranking Government officials and NGOs agreed that it was necessary to establish a national action plan for protecting the country’s river networks.

But they could not reach a workable consensus on what to do.

“I agree with the framework we together set up today, but my question is that who will fund us to carry out the work, including funds for research,” said Ky Quang Vinh, director of Can Tho City’s natural resources and environment monitoring and survey centre.

Dao Viet Nga, director of the Viet Nam River Network (VRN), said the stakeholders were still struggling to connect with each other and share information when action was needed on particular water pollution cases.

Nga recommended opening the VRN network in the south since it only had members in the north.

The acting alone matter was illustrated by Nguyen Son Phong of the Southern Institution for Irrigation Planning, who said:”The VRN was set up in 2005 but we know nothing about its existence and its function.”

The institution is a governmental agency working on the protection of the Dong Nai River basin – the country’s largest river basin, assigned by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment since 2003.

Dr Le Phat Quoi of HCM City National University’s Institute for Natural Resources and Environment said it was crucial for the public and Government to value scientific research for action to be taken.

Quoi said: “The first step is to create a firm base with accurate scientific evidence and a plan, the next is to call for participation of public and related agencies and then suggest changes in constitution and policy for environmental matters.”

PanNature, an international NGO (*) working in Viet Nam, said though Vietnamese laws complied with the world in recognising the principle that polluters had to pay for their pollution, Government agencies had troubles fining polluters since there were no precedents in the country.

PanNature released a statements on December 18 as it introduced a paper titled “Right to sue for compensation of environmental pollution: legal base and procedures”, which was developed by Ha Noi University of Law’s Dr Vu Thu Hanh and Dr Tran Anh Tuan.

The paper used the Vedan and Thi Vai River case as its case study as it is considered to be the best illustration of a need for legal actions against a polluter.

The researchers aimed to provide details on how the authorities could penalise the company.

“Methodology to fulfil a case of pollution is not just compensation of damages to people and environment, but it must show a scientific and legal base to fine the polluters,” PanNature said.

Tran Van Tu, deputy chairman of Can Tho City’s Association of Technology and Science Unions, said it might be late but scientists were still responsible for saving the rivers.

Dr Duong Van Ni of Can Tho University said that if Government leaders were not informed of scientists’ findings, their research was useless.

The VRN on November 12 set up its southern office in HCM City aiming to create a more co-ordinated national team of scientists and researchers for river conservation but they still need to involve all stakeholders if they are to make a difference.

Source: DanTri International

* Note from PanNature: PanNature is actually a Vietnamese organization, not an international NGO as stated in the article.

The vital safeguarding of Vietnam’s tigers

How many tigers does Vietnam have? It’s a matter that is troubling the experts and there is no definitive answer says Dr Scott Roberton from the Wildlife Conservation Society on November 24.

Dr. Roberton confirmed that according to a recent survey by Education for Nature – Vietnam and the Environmental Police department, Vietnam has 97 tigers in captivity, but numbers of tigers in the wild, are thought to be anywhere between 20 and 100.

He said that while it is relatively easy to breed tigers in captivity, if not regulated, it can harm wild tiger populations.

“Is breeding tigers always good for wild tiger conservation? The answer is ‘no’. Increasing the number of tigers in captivity is only good if it is supporting the conservation of wild tigers.”

He stressed:  “It is more difficult to release captive tigers to the wild than it is to simply protect existing wild tiger populations and let them naturally increase.”

Trinh Le Nguyen, director of People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature), said that according to the WWF, ten years ago Vietnam had 100 wild tigers.

According to Nguyen, the current number of tigers in Vietnam may be less than 100 because “Tigers require a large area of forest to live andcan travel up to 100km a day, but forests in Vietnam are being narrowed”.

Nguyen warned that wildlife smuggling cases discovered in Vietnam account for only 20 percent of total cases. The local press also report only 10 percent of cases calculated by the Vietnam Forest Protection Agency.

An investigation in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong showed illegal hunting of wild animals remains popular. At least 175 professional hunters are working in the two districts of Cat Tien and Da The in the forests of Lam Dong.

According to the study, hunters mainly work in protected areas like the Bi Doup National Park, Nui Ba Mountain and the Cat Tien National Park. Hunters of Don Duong, Dam Rong and Lam Ha work in Dak Lak and Dak Nong provinces. They also go to Ninh Thuan and Binh Phuoc to hunt wild animals.

Hunters say they use many tools in hunting, including self-made shot guns, an AR115, an M16 or even a bow.

A hunter in Don Duong district said his group normally has between four and six hunters. After up to five days laying traps, they check the traps and often collect up to 40 kilos of wild animals in a pine forest in Ninh Thuan province.

Another hunter in Dam Rong district said his group works at night to avoid forest rangers.


Source: Trung Thanh, VietnamNet

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