Smuggled seeds create environmental issues
HA NOI (VNS)— Illegal imports of invasive grasses have surged recently due to a lack of awareness about the harmful effects that these species can have on local ecosystems, according to the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources.
Farmers in southern Tra Vinh Province's Dan Thanh Commune have been planting Sorghum Sundanese (Piper) Stapf, one of these alien species. They obtained the seeds from an overseas Vietnamese but they were ignorant of the real origin of this grass and the country's ban on such plants.
Tran Trung Hien, director of the province's Agriculture and Rural Development Department, said all the areas with this grass had been incinerated and the seeds had been repossessed.
Ph.D Le Xuan Canh, director of the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources, said traders have persuaded many farmers to import and plant exotic species despite not knowing their origins, resulting in their spread.
Since the farmers found no immediate harm in planting the seeds, they saw no reason to refuse.
Controlling alien species at customs offices has been a failure because of the big loads of checked goods and lack of inspection machines.
Ph.d Pham Binh Quyen of Viet Nam Environment Protection Association said a lot of money and efforts have been spent on preventing the spread of these exotic species. However, illegal imports remain uncontrollable.
The latest statistics from Tram Chim National Park revealed that Mimosa Pigra (Giant Sensitive Tree), one of the world's 100 worst invasive species, has spread over more than 2,000 ha of the park, resulting in significant losses of native flora and fauna and degradation of the unique inundated grasslands of Dong Thap Muoi.
This species has also invaded large swaths of agricultural land in southern provinces such as Dong Nai, Lam Dong, Dong Thap and Kien Giang.
Tran Van Hien, an expert at Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute, said Mimosa Pigra - once native to tropical America - now threatens the country's biodiversity and agriculture.
He said no plants or animals can exist in the land area where this species appears and no natural disaster can limit its spread. There are no official statistics for losses caused by this species, but it has cost localities a lot to wipe it out.
Quyen said millions of dollars were spent to stop the spread of invasive yellow snails, and Japanese water ferns continue to grow.
Experts agree that punishments for these activities are strict enough, with fines totaling millions of dong under the Law on Bio-diversity.
However, Canh suggested that awareness of local authorities and people be improved so they can report those growing alien species in their areas to relevant agencies.
In addition, he said, the ministries of Natural Resources and Environment and Agriculture and Rural Development should co-operate with scientists to work out an official list of invasive alien species and the potential damage each can inflict. — VNS