In what was apparently a face-saving move, Vietnam opted to withdraw its nomination of a major national park for UNESCO heritage status two days ahead of an annual session that opened June 16 in Cambodia. But even if Vietnam had gone ahead with nominating the Cat Tien National Park, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization would have probably rejected it following a recommendation to the effect by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
By normal standards, the scrapping of two controversial dams planned in a protected area should have been a done deal by now. But victories for the environment have become extremely rare in Vietnam in recent years and opponents of the two dams, to be built in the core of the UNESCO-recognized Dong Nai Biosphere Reserve, appear to be seeing the writing on the wall.
For those who had believed that Laos would stick to its pledge to shelve construction of the controversial Xayaburi dam, November 7 was a black day. It was on that day that Laos broke ground on the US$3.8-billion project despite vehement objections from environmental groups and its neighbors who said the 810-meter (2,600ft) dam would unleash massive ecological changes on a river that feeds around 60 million people.