THUA THIEN-HUE Á— The central province of Thua Thien-Hue has found a viable way to preserve biodiversity and develop ecotourism by combining coastal afforestation with aquaculture.
The afforestation project 661, which involves 28 communes along the province's coastline, lagoons and marshes, provide saplings to be planted on a total 4,600ha of land.
The afforestation project on coastal and sandy land is an important component of the programme to plant 5 million ha of forest. It has been deployed in 28 coastal and lagoon-adjacent communes in Phong Dien, Quang Dien, Huong Tra, Phu Vang and Phu Loc districts.
The project has brought about social, economic and environmental benefits to local communities since it began 10 years ago. The ecological environment has improved considerably.
Once-deserted sand dunes in Ngu Dien and surrounding areas have been regreened, creating favourable conditions to develop eco-tourism and the farm economy.
The project has helped reinforce a 5km-long stretch of coastal sandy dykes, raise forest cover to 30 per cent, and generate jobs for 2,230 local households.
It has also increased the residents' awareness of and responsibility for protecting and developing forest.
Deserted sand dunes in Phong Dien District's Dien Mon Commune, where weeds could not even grow during the hottest days, have been planted with trees.
The area is now a protective forest, with farms operating effectively on the land.
As the forest was restored, monkeys, rabbits and tortoises began to arrive in droves, local residents said.
The Dien Mon Commune chief, Ho Dien, was quoted by the Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) as saying that local residents were sceptical about the project because the area had been hit by storms in 2000, devastating the most solid structures in the neighbourhood.
After the coastal protective forests were planted, many saplings died or withered. But project 661 has brought a green landscape to the sandy land, he said, adding that local authorities had devised a model to combine coastal forest development with economic activities.
The model would allocate forest land for local people to manage and take care of.
Under project 661, local people in the commune have grown 180ha of coastal forest and nearly 280ha of scattered overland forest.
Mai Khoi, a local resident, combined a shrimp farm with planting forest over an area of 1ha.
He said the existing rows of poplar trees provided shade to the shrimp pond during hot days, helping to prevent rising water temperatures and evaporation. It also helped reduce the salty level of water, which will not affect the shrimps' growth.
The trees also supplied feedstock to shrimp and fish, he said, adding that his shrimp pond earned him several hundreds of millions of dong last year.
Ru Cha forest in Huong Tra District's Huong Phong Commune was once devastated during the American War and destroyed by poor locals for firewood or to have land for shrimp ponds. It is now thick with trees from two to four metres high.
The forest has been revitalised since the State zoned off the area for protection and locals began to be aware of protecting and expanding the forest area to 20ha from 5ha.
Phan Van Ung, the Huong Phong Commune chief, said that local people had realised after the historic floods in 1999 that Ru Cha forest acted as a shield to safeguard them from natural calamities.
He said Thuan Hoa village had set a rule forbidding every deforestation activity and asked everyone to protect and regrow the forest while establishing self-management teams to monitor the forest regularly. — VNS