|Ca Mau Cape in the southern-most province of Ca Mau has natural geographical surroundings - sea, forest, river-and-stream systems. This has enabled it to develop a diversified agro-forestry system. — VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khuong
HA NOI (VNS) — Successfully utilising natural capital is essential if Viet Nam wants to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Such was the takeaway of the Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment's three-day workshop, which began on Thursday in Ha Noi.
Natural capital, defined as the net value of a country or region's natural assets, includes geological features, soil, air, water and all living things.
The National Strategy for Environmental Protection for 2020 gives recommendations for the country to effectively use natural resources. For example, demand for land use needs to match the potential of the land; the use of agricultural and forest lands for other purposes should be severely restricted; integrated water resource management at river basins should be promoted; and vamping up protection of natural forests.
The strategy blamed some of the dire environmental situation on the fact that a majority of the nation's citizens do not consider their lifestyles as part of environmental protection efforts.
Shortcomings and overlaps in policies were also blamed. The State Budget's funds for environmental protection are insufficient, the national strategy declared.
According to Nguyen Van Tai, director of the Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment, Viet Nam is now facing a number of environmental issues such as declining biodiversity and increasing environmental pollution. Viet Nam is also one of the countries hit hardest by climate change.
The strategy's findings showed that sections of rivers running through urban, industrial- production and mining areas contain pollutants in concentrations exceeding the permitted number by 1.5 to 3 times. Air quality is deteriorating across the country, especially in major cities. The area of coastal mangrove forests is now about 160,000 ha, reduced by 50 per cent compared to 1943.
"These are the reasons why we should focus on sustainability and the way the country uses its natural capital towards satisfying SDGs," Tai said.
The recently set SDGs focus on greater equity and sustainability in growth and development, protecting the environment, and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies. Of the 17 listed SDGs, 10 are related to environmental issues, signaling an increasing global awareness of the environmental issues countries like Viet Nam face.
Sanath D. B. Ranawana, senior natural resource management specialist of Greater Mekong Subregion's Core Environment Programme, said that SDGs served as a new framework for measuring the economic, social and environmental development of a country.
"In MDGs, we have one indicator for environment, but in SDGs we have four or five indicators that relate to the environment," he said, explaining that SDGs are progressions of MDGs. Enhancing natural capital would therefore play a big role in whether a country would achieve the SDGs, he said.
At the three-day workshop, participants also discussed the future of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) countries' post-2015 sustainable development agenda.
Connected by the Mekong River, the GMS countries of Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam all share similar environmental challenges and opportunities.
The workshop included policy makers and organisations working to establish a policy framework for regional co-operation aimed at enhancing natural capital for SGDs.
SDGs, a proposed set of targets relating to future international development, will replace Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) once they expire at the end of 2015. They were first formally discussed at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012 (Rio+20). — VNS