HA NOI — Eyes converged on the screen. Images of spectacular world heritage sites beguiled Ha Noi ninth grader Nguyen Thu Ha and other students from Trung Vuong, Lomonosov, Hai Boi and Dong Hoi High Schools who attended the interactive UNESCO World Heritage Eco-Learning Programme at Thang Long Citadel on Thursday and Friday.
|Site preservation: Students visit the Thang Long Imperial Citadel as part of the eco-learning programme. — File Photo
Instantly, however, the students also learnt that many of these natural and cultural treasures were also suffering from environmental degradation. During a question-and-answer session, the students became excited to discuss ways to deal with pollution at the sites.
"The earth is warming and it is our responsbility to protect the living environment," said Ha, a student at Dong Hoi High School in the outlying district of Dong Anh. "My classmates will mobilise the masses to make our environment green and clean. We will collect rubbish and plant trees at our schools.
"If the environment at heritage sites is not protected, it will make a bad impression on visitors," she added.
UNESCO Representative in Viet Nam Katherine Muller-Marin told the gathering that natural and cultural heritage sites were suffering from different kinds of environmental effects.
"Much of the damage to the environment could be avoided, especially in countries like Viet Nam, since the heritage sites have been a resource for development and a motto for tourism development for many years," said Muller-Marin.
"We need to change the way we deal with heritage sites," she said. "We are working with authorities and local people at the sites, and we need to get all children on board. If 100 per cent of Vietnamese children were committed to protecting the environment and their heritage, the country's future development would be guaranteed."
Young people were great agents of peace and national development and were the country's future leaders, she said.
"That's why UNESCO encourages young people to participate in heritage conservation and to respond to the continuing threats facing our heritage, while building skills for successful transitions to adulthood."
Nguyen Van Son, the director of the Co Loa-Ha Noi Ancient Citadel Vestige Preservation Centre, said he hoped the young people had an interesting experience discovering the thousand-year history of Thang Long-Ha Noi and enjoying the green space of the site.
"You are the future owners of our country, the next generation to protect this sacred vestige, so I hope that right now all of you will come here and, with practical efforts, contribute in protecting this site and its green spaces for future generations," Son said.
After a tour round the citadel, Trinh Hong Chau, a 7th grader at Trung Vuong School, said the educational programme helped her understand more about the historical and cultural values of the nation's heritage and the importance of environment protection. She said she would go online and call for better behaviour towards the environment.
Chau ended up the day making a drawing in which half of the earth was seriously damaged and the other half well-protected.
She entered the drawing in the Panasonic Eco-Picture Diary Contest in which young people 6-15 years old are submitting drawings or writings expressing their thoughts about world heritage sites. The winner, to be announced in September, will get a trip to Kyoto, Japan, for the final round of competition.
Muller-Marin said the UNESCO-Panasonic co-operation was an ideal public-private partnership.
"We have teamed up to make sure cultural resources and heritage are protected," Muller-Marin said. "We see how kids are really energetic to find solutions. So we provide them opportunities so they can put in practice the creativity they have. They will go back to their schools and communities and contribute to other projects."
Panasonic Viet Nam's director of corporate planning and brand promotion, Naoki Sugiura, said that the Panasonic aimed to be the No1 "green" company in electronics manufacturing by 2018, the 100th anniversary of the company.
Panasonic not only innovates in technology to produce greener products for a better life but also to raise the public sense of responsibility to protect the environment as a prerequisite for sustainable development.
"The main stream of our corporate social responsibility effort is focused on environmental education in order to contribute to the next generation who will lead Viet Nam's prosperity," Sugiura said.
The UNESCO World Heritage Eco Learning Programme was launched globally in 2001 to raise public awareness about protecting heritage sites from environmental damage. It has benefited over 1,700 students in five nations and was expected to benefit about 3,500 students from 10 countries worldwide this year, marking the 40th anniversary of the UNESCO Convention on Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
As part of the programme, students visit and learn about the historic and cultural values of UNESCO World Heritage sites. They are encouraged to recommend ways to preserve those values as well as protect the environment. — VNS