Tag: Development policies

Fuelled by Forests

The past 20 years in Vietnam have been remarkable. The economy has expanded by an average of 7 percent annually since the mid-1990s and according to the Vietnam Development Report 2011, “poverty has fallen drastically from 60 percent in 1993 to 14 percent in 2008”. In 2009, Vietnam was reclassified as a “lower-middle-income country”. But much of the economic expansion and inertia has been fueled by the use of domestic natural resources.

With its diverse topography and climates, Vietnam is home to 10 percent of the world’s vertebrate species and an incredible amount of biodiversity for a country that takes up only about one percent of the globe’s land mass. But forest cover nationally has dropped from 43 percent in 1943 to about 27 percent in 1990. As of 2009, the number rebounded to 40 percent, which is largely a result of investments in plantations. However, as IUCN’s Brunner puts it, “the area of quality forest is probably only five percent of total forest cover”.

Photo: PanNature.

Along with quality forests, Vietnam’s tiger population has also been wiped out and few believe the remaining roaming elephants will last much longer. Endemic species including the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey, the saola and the Siamese crocodile are all dangling precariously on the brink of extinction. There have been signs of success, albeit limited to projects where there’s been long term foreign presence focusing on a restricted range species, like primates, or with captive breeding programmes such as at the Cuc Phuong Turtle Conservation Centre.

“Vietnam has five of the 25 most endangered higher primates in the world. Just by knowing that you and your country have five particularly special primates is a great honour,” says Potess. “The Vietnamese population has to jump on the wagon and say ‘Yes! We are losing our national heritage.”

As of 2010, Vietnam was ranked 85 among 163 countries with respect to its environmental performance index, which measures countries’ “performance level relative to their established environmental policies targets”.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for the country’s huge depletion of its fauna and flora. Vast amounts of money are put into conservation efforts in Vietnam and about 15 percent of the country is classified as protected. According to Brunner, on a hectare basis, spending on Vietnam’s protected areas is among the highest in the world. But throwing money at a problem doesn’t appear to solve everything. Enormous projects funded by international donors are often inflexible. Policies often look good on paper, but enforcement at the ground level and park management is often ineffective. Throw into the mix that Asia’s economic rise has lead to the expansion of wildlife trafficking that feeds traditional medicine and culinary markets domestically and abroad, and it becomes clear that more is needed than good top-down intentions.

The nascent, but growing, domestic NGO sector will be a pivotal factor in Vietnam’s green future. While international NGOs are often instrumental in securing large funds for domestic projects, it’s the local organisations that are able to nurture vital grassroots movements and start dialogue at the official and communal level that are instrumental to any type of sustainable change.

“More organisations are emerging because now the registration process is quite easy and open,” says People and Nature Reconciliation’s executive director Trinh Le Nguyen. “Now it’s a matter of how to survive and how to actually do work and carry on [with] the mission of the organisation.”

At People and Nature Reconciliation, Nguyen and the 25 full-time staff members are instituting a multi-pronged, holistic strategy to protect the country’s biodiversity. Tasks include a news website, a nationally published policy review, managing field projects and hosting roundtable discussions with policymakers and Vietnamese think tanks.

“When we started, we needed a lot of capacity building and support from international groups,” says Nguyen. “In the future, we hope more domestic philanthropy organisations will look at the environment and conservation issues.”

While Nguyen admits the task at hand is enormous, he has hopes that greener days await in the future. Attendance from policymakers at their forums and roundtable discussions is on the rise. As the country’s middle class expands, Nguyen says young people are increasingly looking at ways to get involved and are concerned with the country’s environmental health.

Source: Word Hanoi

Video Report on the Roundtable on Mekong Dams

A news report by VTC about the policy roundtable “Mainstream Mekong Dams: Implications on Livelihoods, Food Security and Regional Stability” organized by PanNature and the Institute of Legislative Studies (a research body of the National Assembly of Vietnam) on 4th October 2011.

Government urged to take actions to prevent rivers from degrading

Experts have rung the alarm bell over the “health” of the river system in Vietnam, saying that a lot of rivers are perceptibly degrading.

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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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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

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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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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Confront emerging challenges

The 21st century welcomes a new Vietnam with its rapid changing economy, stable growth, and amazing reduction in the poverty rate. However, this good news can not hide the increasing environmental problems and degradation of our valuable natural resources.

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