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First national round table

14 September 2001

Protected Areas and Environment Planning

Tran Lien Phong, Nature Conservation Office, National Environment Agency

The establishment of protected areas and environmental planning has attracted great attention from the Government of Vietnam. During the process of building the strategy for environmental protection and sustainable development from 1991 to 2000, biodiversity conservation issues were integrated into the Environment Protection Plan. During this period, forest degradation has been critical, causing environmental problems such as soil degradation and flooding. Many economic activities also focused on the exploitation and use of forest products for such purposes as timber for export, fuel wood and agricultural development. All these activities have lead to a severe loss of biodiversity in many parts of Vietnam. Therefore the protection and restoration of forest ecological systems has become an urgent issue. At the same time, it has been necessary to integrate the protection of the remaining natural ecological systems with biodiversity conservation by creating a system of protected areas.

Based on these strategies, Vietnamís Biodiversity Action Plan was approved by the Prime Minister in December 1995. This plan proposed to increase natural forest areas belonging to protected areas from more than 900,000 ha to 2 million ha (occupying approximately 2% of the whole country). Until now, many points in the Biodiversity Action Plan have been implemented, the number of the protected areas has increased from 87 to 107 with a total area of more than 2 million ha (in 2000). In general, Vietnam has determined locations and sizes for the system of forest, marine and wetland areas (which have to be protected) for the whole country. This is an essential foundation for planning for the sectorís development towards ensuring the sustainable development and conservation of ecological systems and endemic species in Vietnamís territory.

In the draft proposal "Environment Protection Strategies for the period from 2001 to 2010", which was submitted to the Prime Minister for formal approval, the conservation of biodiversity is still considered as a priority. In the forestry sector, the designation of protected areas will continue. Priority should be given to wetlands and marine conservation because these areas are very sensitive to economic and population pressures. In Vietnam, the conservation of these areas is only in the starting phase.

In the forthcoming period, management for the determined protected areas shall be focused on:

  • Ensuring ecological sustainability;
  • Encouraging community participation;
  • Sustainable use of biodiversity; and
  • Integrating economic tools for the implementation of the conservation plan.

During the period 2001-2010, priority shall be given to the following areas:

  • Biodiversity areas with international and national significance;
  • Areas with different endemic species; and
  • Areas with many threatened species.

In Vietnam, today, the causes of conflict between development and conservation are:

  • Population growth,
  • Infrastructure development and development of industrial zones,
  • Expansion of agricultural areas.

These conflicts shall be resolved in the state sectorís planning stages. This planning process shall also include EIA to balance development with conservation. Unfortunately, currently EIA cannot be conducted as requested by the law. Currently the EIA report accompanies only concrete projects, thus when conflicts occur conservation is neglected for the demands of development.

Through round table discussions like this, and with the experience and recommendations of the participants, we hope to improve the integration of economic development with biodiversity conservation and environmental protection.