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Press Release

A LAUNCH PAD FOR PROTECTED AREAS AND DEVELOPMENT IN VIETNAM: The first of four events in the Lower Mekong Region


Hanoi, Vietnam, 22 March 2004

After two years of intensive consultation, field research and policy analysis in the four countries of the Lower Mekong region, the Protected Areas and Development (PAD) Review is now drawing to a close. Four national PAD reports have been endorsed by the respective governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam; a regional report providing a framework of strategies for a regional conservation action plan has been produced; field studies covering clusters of protected areas have been conducted in each country; and, lessons from global PAD experience during the past decade have been compiled.

The first in a series of events launching the set of PAD reports takes place today in Hanoi, Vietnam and is hosted by the Forest Protection Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Vietnam.

The PAD Review, led in Vietnam by MARD, was undertaken through a partnership of national government agencies, donor organizations, international NGOs and regional agencies. It analyses current approaches to protected area management and recommends ways to better integrate them into economic development. Technical support was provided by IUCN – The World Conservation Union, the International Centre for Environmental Management (ICEM), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Birdlife International and the Australian NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. Funding contributions came from the Governments of Denmark, Australia, Switzerland and the Netherlands and from the Asian Development Bank, United Nations Development Program and the Mekong River Commission.

Vietnam and the other lower Mekong countries Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand have an extraordinary reservoir of natural resources: around 80 percent of its population is directly dependent on them. Therefore, maintaining these ecosystems and the products and services they provide is crucial for human well being and socio-economic development.

Over the last ten years, an unprecedented effort has been made to save the remaining natural systems. In Vietnam, more than 8 percent of the country is protected, but in the Lower Mekong Region as a whole some 20 percent of the four countries has been set aside as protected areas. This protected area system is expected to increase further by 2005, approaching 22 percent of the region’s territory, exceptional by world standards. Domestic and international investment in these areas has increased. Yet, paradoxically the natural resources inside the protected areas continue to degrade.

One reason is inconsiderate economic development including roads, agricultural encroachment, hydropower and illegal logging. Protected areas are still seen as unproductive in economic terms. Their values are not recognised or accounted for in national budgets and development plans. Governments continue to give priority to economic growth, even when it means degrading the substantial natural and economic values of protected areas. To raise awareness of their significance for development, the PAD Review examines the economic importance of protected areas to different sectors such as tourism, fisheries, water resource management, agriculture, energy and forestry. It is an important step by the four governments of the Lower Mekong region to have protected areas treated as economic assets to be maintained for their natural values.

Field studies were undertaken in the four countries involving rapid economic valuations associated with clusters of protected areas in shared development landscapes. In Central Vietnam, for example, the study covered five existing and proposed protected areas in Thua Thien Hue Province. It examined the economic contribution of protected areas to different economic sectors and defined policy and planning issues related to maintaining and enhancing benefits, for example, to local fisheries and community use of non-timber forest products, tourism, irrigation and agricultural production, water supply and flood control.

The PAD Review assesses how effective protected area management has been in meeting socio-economic and nature conservation needs and recommends ways to integrate institutional arrangements for economic planning and nature conservation. It also defines practical steps to improve the contribution of protected areas to national and economic development. National PAD launches in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand will take place over the next two months.

For more information contact:

Nguyen Thi Yen, Vietnam PAD Review Coordinator, IUCN Vietnam, 13A Tran Hung Dao, Hanoi. Phone 9330012/3, Email: yen@iucn.org.vn
IUCN website: www.iucn.org

Jeremy Carew-Reid, Director, International Centre for Environmental Management, 70 Blackstone Street, Indooroopilly, Queensland, 4068, Australia, Phone: 61 7 38786191, Fax: 61 7 38786391, Email: jecr@icem.com.au; Website: www.icem.com.au