HA NOI — The Viet Nam Environment Administration yesterday officially launched the largest ever biodiversity conservation project, aiming to establish a biodiversity corridor in three central provinces of Quang Nam, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue.
The budget for the eight-year project, titled Greater Mekong Subregion Biodiversity Conservation Corridors Project – Viet Nam Component, was US$34.083 million, of which $30 million came in the form of official development assistance (ODA) loans.
The biodiversity corridor, once established, would help restore and maintain the connectivity of ecosystems in the region and at the same time create jobs to benefit local communities and foster economic growth.
The project involved some 70,000 residents in 34 communes, most of whom were poor and living in far-flung areas.
Jeremy Carew Reid, director of the International Centre for Environmental Management, an independent public interest centre, said work on biodiversity conservation was traditionally begun only after there had been a great loss of biodiversity.
He said he noticed that a new way of thinking had started to arrive in Viet Nam, which saw biodiversity conservation as an essential foundation for economic development as well as a way to adapt to climate change.
"The world's going to be watching all these things because this is new world-wide. Viet Nam has been out front thinking and acting on the corridor concept," Reid said.
"We know it will require difficult decisions but there's no single correct way to do this. The critical thing is how well we can engage the economic sector, transport sector and industry sector. Unless we bring those actors into the corridor and show them the benefits of it, we know that the corridor is going to be very hard to maintain."
The chairman of the Viet Nam Association of Zoologists, Professor Dang Huy Huynh, said the project should keep track of the progress in quantitative terms. For example, it should follow the loss of biodiversity at the beginning and the end of the project or the rate of new jobs generated to make sure such a huge investment would not be wasted.
Pham Anh Cuong, director of the Viet Nam Environment Administration's Biodiversity Conservation Agency, said that the relevant legal documents on the design and management of biodiversity corridors hadn't been drawn up yet.
"So we hope as part of this project, we can come up with a legal document stipulating this aspect, based on the successful experiments of building a corridor in these three provinces during the 2006-09 period," he said.
Cuong said his agency was due to start constructing a plan for a national network of biodiversity corridors this year and should submit it to the Government by 2013.
He said that apart from design and management mechanisms, the strong political commitment of each province was vitally important to the sustainability of this corridor. Asia Development Bank (ADB) is the lending agency supporting this project. — VNS