by Le Hung Vong
KIEN GIANG (VNS)— The provincial authorities of Kien Giang have called for continued support from international organisations, scientists and nature-lovers to conserve and promote the values of the region's Biosphere Reserve.
Speaking at the opening session of the Conservation and Promotion of Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve (KGBR) international workshop held on Phu Quoc Island yesterday, Chairman of Kien Giang People's Committee Le Van Thi, said support could be provided to the KGBR through a range of channels, including projects research works and social activities.
One of the largest biosphere reserves in Viet Nam, the KGBR covers over 1.1 million hectares including inland, sea and islands in the districts and towns of U Minh Thuong, An Minh, An Bien, Rach Gia, Hon Dat, Kien Luong, Giang Thanh, Ha Tien, Kien Hai and Phu Quoc.
It was recognised as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in October 2006.
Thi said: "Kien Giang is the gateway from Viet Nam to the western ASEAN countries, so the biosphere reserve in the province not only helps to conserve and promote socio-economic values but also plays an important role in the protection of the ecological environment of the [ASEAN] region."
The workshop aimed to share scientific and management experiences that would help to conserve and promote the values of the KGBR.
Held by Kien Giang People's Committee, GIZ and AusAid, it was attended by representatives of the Vietnamese, Australian and US governments, ministry representatives, Cambodian tourism manager, local and international scientists,
According to a report released by Luong Thanh Hai, Deputy Director of KGBR's management board, the KGBR is home to many tropical ecosystems such as marine and coastal ecosystems, mangrove swamps, coral reefs, marsh, seasonal mangro wetlands, primary and secondary tropical forests on Phu Quoc and forest on Hon Chong karst mountain.
It has six main ecosystems with 22 different habitat types including primary and secondary forest ecosystems dominated by a wide range of vegetation.
The fauna has 2,340 species, of which 1,480 species are plants with 116 rare species listed in the Red Book, and 57 endemic species. It also boasts 860 animal species, with 78 rare species and 36 endemic species.
Major issues requiring attention
"Solving the conflict between conservation and development is a big question requiring participation from the political system, business community and local people in the biosphere reserve," said Hai.
"Due attention should be paid to conservation to promote the value of the biosphere reserve, develop the economy and improve the local people's livelihood," he added.
Major issues to be tackled in the near future include raising public awareness and activities to promote the KGBR; human resources training; biodiversity conservation; and enhancing the investment sources for sustainable conservation.
Hai said focus must also turn to waste water and waste treatment; developing and implementing scientific projects; as well as enhancing the effectiveness of management activities in the KGBR.
There are currently 598 biosphere reserves in 117 countries across the world, including eight biosphere reserves in Viet Nam recognised by UNESCO between 2000 and 2012.
But Hai believes the matter requires more attention to detail.
According to Dr Sharon Brown, Chief Technical Advisor of GIZ (German Cooperation Organisation) Kien Giang, the KGBR was established in 2006 and in 2008, the provincial authorities established a Biosphere Reserve Management Board.
In 2011, the provincial authorities met with representatives of the Noosa Biosphere Reserve in Australia and learned how Noosa BR manages similar landscape of coastal land, wetland and fresh and marine waters. Kien Giang has similar plans for its economic development based on its tourism potential.
The Department of Science and Technology and the GIZ project have worked to gain official KGBR branding for some key products that originate in the KGBR, including honey and fish from U Minh Thuong National Park, pepper, fish sauce and wine produced on Phu Quoc and handicrafts produced in the Phu My protected area.
Speaking at the opening session, Dr Katherine Muller-Marin, UNESCO Representative to Viet Nam, underlined the importance of mangroves for a biosphere reserve such as Kien Giang for coastal protection, biodiversity conservation, generation of food, fodder, fuel and timber.
"We must raise awareness among the wider public of the importance of mangroves so that we can prevent them from being cut down and destroyed. We must also replace them urgently wherever necessary," said Muller-Marin.
She said while the opening of the new international airport in Phu Quoc brought challenges, it also presented a great opportunities for the biosphere reserve. "We must ensure we have a plan for managing the rise in tourist intake to ensure the conservation of biodiversity and the natural environment within the site."
"UNESCO encourages Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve and other reserves to consider its Public Use Planning methodology, successsfully implemented in three protected areas in Quang Nam Province and now being applied to develop a management plan for Dong Van Geopark," she added.
The integrated management plans developed for Dong Ho Lagoon and for Coastal Management should be formally adopted by the provincial authorities who will need to continue its strong commitment to ensure the planning, implementation and monitoring are carried out, according to Brown.
She thinks KGBR should serve as a learning laboratory and believes measures should be taken to raise awareness about environmental protection of the ecosystems.
"The project has introduced new ways to raise awareness that target different groups, ranging from poor fishermen, women's groups, schools and Districts to Departments and Province officials," she added. — VNS