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Experts raise alarm over desertification

Update: April, 18/2012 - 10:19

 

People in Ninh Phuoc District's Phuoc Dai Commune in the central province of Ninh Thuan draw water for daily use from a drying stream. — VNA/VNS Photo Xuan Truong
HA NOI — Viet Nam needs to take stronger action against desertification, defined as the dire consequences of long-term unsustainable land use, a forestry expert has said.

Speaking at a workshop that wrapped up yesterday in Ha Noi, deputy director general of the Viet Nam Administration for Forestry Nguyen Ba Ngai said that climate change coupled with other natural factors had sped up land degradation in Viet Nam.

Viet Nam has 9.3 million hectares that could be categorised as going through a process of desertfication, accounting for 28 per cent of the total land.

Ngai said feasible mechanisms and sufficient resources were required to combat the problem.

He was speaking to key policy-makers, experts and local leaders at the two-day workshop on the land degradation in central Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan provinces, which are the most affected by land degradation and are also home to some of the poorest communities in Viet Nam.

Camilla Nordheim-Larsen, Asia and Pacific Programme Co-ordinator from the Global Mechanism of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), said land degradation was a complex and cross-cutting issue which was at the core of sustainable development.

"Land degradation need to be addressed in an intergrated manner as it is closely linked to building climate change resilience, to the sustainable management of water, soil and forest resources, as well as to agriculture production," she said.

"The UNCCD sees land degradation as not only an environmental challenge,but as a larger macro-economic issue of crucial importance for sustainable development and poverty reduction," Nordheim-Larsen told Viet Nam News.

The workshop focused on finalising the Integrated Financial Strategy that aims to increase investments in sustainable land management activities in the two provinces.

The strategy proposed that provinces could mobilise investment capital to address the problem and use it more effectively by examining the development partners' priorities, the Government's budget, and the interests of the private sector.

Nordheim-Larsen said the next step would be to develop investment project proposals that had been identified by provincial leaders and endorsed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The project will be further negotiated with development partners and potential investors and is hoped to result in an increased flow of investments into sustainable land management activities in the two provinces.

"The project will form part of a larger investment package to ensure that all priorities of the provinces are addressed," she said.

Environmental expert Nguyen Van Duyen, leader of the consulting team that developed the strategy, said he had worked extensively in the two provinces and observed that local residents were well aware of the problem because it had already affected their livelihood. However, they needed further external support to be able to fix it.

"Although the land degradation is becoming more severe in these places, it has not received the attention it deserves," he said.

Duyen noted that the total amount of official development assistance for the two provinces was much lower than the national average, which meant even less aid had been channelled into climate change-related projects.

Representatives from the departments of Agriculture and Rural developments from both provinces explained the help they would need to run vitally important projects to combat desertification, including rehabilitating the degraded land, afforestation and watershed development.

Desertification in Ninh Thuan accounts for 30 per cent of the provincial area while that of Binh Thuan is about 15 per cent.

Viet Nam has been a party to the UNCCD since November 1998 and ratified the national action programme to combat desertification for the period of 2006-10 with a vision toward 2020. — VNS

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