Viet Nam News talks to Dr Nguyen Chu Hoi, head of the governing body of the Mangroves for the Future programme initiated by former US president Bill Clinton in 2006 to protect coastal eco-systems in Viet Nam.
What is the importance of coastal areas?
A coastal area is the place where water and land meet each other and has diverse eco-systems.
Coastal areas allow many economic development activities like aquaculture, salt making, tourism, port and marine services, mining, coastal economic, industrial and processing zones, and others.
The area is considered one of the key economic zones, accounting for 30 per cent of national GDP.
Around 10 million people live based on coastal natural resources.
The most precious asset of the coastal area is its eco-system that provides ‘adjustment services' against climate, floods, diseases, water quality, carbon, ‘supply services' like food, water, wood, drugs, ‘support services' by creating natural characteristics for land, promoting photosynthesis, protecting the seashore, and ‘cultural services' related to entertainment, art, and spirituality.
It is estimated that 90 per cent of seafood farming is done in coastal areas. In some coastal areas, economic value is expected to be around US$60 million per ha annually.
However, the coastal eco-system is at great risk as people's demands grow greater and greater. It cannot be replaced (if it is overexploited) and cannot restored (if it is destroyed).
How can we sustainably exploit the area?
We should exploit it based on natural characteristics and regional advantages.
The eco-system should be protected to ensure sustainable development, act as infrastructure for coastal areas, boost the value of real estate, and provide convenience and services in future.
Local authorities and managers should analyse and predict how economic activities impact the eco-system to properly exploit it.
Let us use the eco-system as a natural, soft barrier to reduce the risks of natural calamities and climate change.
What are the biggest hurdles to protecting coastal areas amid the constantly growing development needs?
Authorities' and managers' awareness of coastal areas and their eco-system is very limited while there is a lack of policy framework for the use and exploitation of coastal areas.
Besides, unsophisticated master planning for using coastal spaces and disjointed policies for development of coastal economic zones have destroyed, degraded, and overexploited the eco-system.
Right now we can see the unmistakable impact of overexploitation in the form of climate change and rising sea level.
How can we mitigate the problem?
One good model preserves the coastal eco-system with the participation of local communities whose livelihoods should be closely linked with preservation.
The model should be run by the Government and local communities together with other stakeholders.
It should focus on community-based mangrove management and sustainable use, develop eco-tourism, create links between sustainable aquaculture, sea preservation area, and poverty reduction, promote sustainable fishing, and community-based protection of marine resources.
To get the community to participate, the carrot is better than the stick.
The most important thing to make sure the model succeeds is showing local residents the benefits of participation and letting them in voluntarily. — VNS