XUAN THUY RAMSAR - VIETNAM   (09:48 | 08-06-2015)
Xuan Thuy is the 50th Ramsar site worldwide (1989) and the first Ramsar site in the Southeast Asia. In 1995, Government decided to establish Xuan Thuy Wetland Natural Reserve in the area, which was upgraded to Xuan Thuy National Park (XTNP) (2003).

BACKGROUND

Xuan Thuy is the 50th Ramsar site worldwide (1989) and the first Ramsar site in the Southeast Asia. In 1995, Government decided to establish Xuan Thuy Wetland Natural Reserve in the area, which was upgraded to Xuan Thuy National Park (XTNP) (2003). Besides that, XTNP was acknowledged as the critical core zone of the Red River Delta Biosphere Reserve (2004). All of the national and international titles of Xuan Thuy Ramsar, Xuan Thuy National Park and Biosphere Reserve somehow reflect importance/values of this area in terms of biodiversity conservation, socio-economics, environmental and social education, and ecotourism.

Figure 1: Xuan Thuy National Park Area

In order to preserve and develop its natural values, Xuan Thuy Ramsar has faced with many challenges and forced the local strived to improve management conditions. For instance, (1) XTNP initially had only 5 staffs with limited technical and professional capacities; (2) The institutional arrangement for management of such a wetlands and estuarial area like Xuan Thuy hindered XTNP management board from implementing monitoring activities to prevent over-exploiting livelihoods of the local communities; and (3) Poor infrastructure and facilities made local authorities and staffs’ job become more and more difficult. However, the most challenges for XTNP management board must be the high pressure of natural resources exploitation and the overlapping management and conflicts between different interested groups. Specifically, among 46 thousands of residents living in 7,300 hectares of the buffer zone, 50% of them have livelihoods and incomes dependent on wetland resources. At the management level, there are a number of Governmental institutions that have rights and responsibilities over Xuan Thuy Ramsar site, but lack effective coordination and cooperation mechanisms.

MANAGEMENT PRACTICE AND LESSONS LEARNT

1.Developing capacities for the management board of XTNP

There is a number of projects funded by National Government to help XTNP to improve its management capacities. Since 2003, a Governmental project specifically for the core zone, the restricted management area, has developed and implemented, in which infrastructure and facilities were invested to support the work of conservation and development. Now, XTNP has a new office center with different function rooms such as natural resources management, eco-tourism, research, and administration. Especially, the Ramsar site have been continuously cooperating with scientists and local communities to set up a natural museum, which will become a place for not only preserving and exhibiting of Xuan Thuy Biodiversity and culture, but a tool for educating and researching.

Figure 2: New office center of XTNP

Figure 3: Area observation station

In terms of human resources, despite of the fact that XTNP just established in 2003, it has been continuously growing to recruit 20 local staffs whose professions are in different fields of biology, forestry, aquaculture, tourism, etc. Moreover, the staff participate many training programs to improve their knowledge and practical skills like Environmental Education Program, Eco-tourism Development, and Community Development.

Moreover, Xuan Thuy strengthened its institutional capacity to be able to set up cooperation and collaboration mechanisms with authorized agents in the area; to successfully register the land-use right which is the basic for XTNP management board to control and manage resources and activities within the area of wetlands.

2.Raising awareness for local communities
Xuan Thuy management board understands clearly that conservation and wise-use of resources of the Ramsar can only be achieved through a proactive participation of all sectors (local communities, youth, and tourists). Therefore, for years XTNP has developed and carried out many educational programs, which could be extracurricular activities for students, site visits, competition campaigns, news on local radio or printed materials like posters and leaflets.

 
To be more visual and practical, XTNP have constructed and improved infrastructures including a National Museum and a Tourism Center based in XTNP office center, and Environmental Education Centers in different communes of the buffer zone of the park.

Figure 5: Environmental protection lessons for pupils

Figure 6: Coastal Clean up campaign

3.Cooperation and Scientific research

Xuan Thuy Ramsar has become a research field work for many national and international scientists. There are more than 10 PhD thesis, tens of master and hundreds of research papers of honor students of over 30 university nationwide.

XTNP has also cooperated with many organizations, mostly NGOs to implement projects related to conservation and sustainable development, many of which became case-studies for other natural reserve sites in Vietnam. The projects can be categorized into 3 groups:

- Conservation projects in the core zone: XTNP core zone is the protected area, in which no human activity is allowed, according to National Government Laws. Conservation projects cover activities to conserve mangroves, migratory birds, wetlands ecosystem and other aquatic animals.

- Development projects in the buffer zone: to promote sustainable and environmentally friendly livelihoods, and establish proper mechanisms such as co-management guidelines.

- Conservation-Development projects in the whole area: those projects will focus on building capacity for the local staff and communities to raise awareness for the people and carry out alternative livelihood pilots in order to eliminate/minimize human pressure on natural resource exploitation in the core zone of the park.

There are many international organizations cooperating with and assisting XTNP to implement the projects mentioned above. For example: Global Environment Fund (GEF UNDP), Embassy of Denmark, Holland and The U.S, Birdlife International, Marinelife conservation and community development (MCD), Wetlands Alliance Programme (WAP) and Asian Coastal Resource Institute Foundation (CORIN-Asia), among others.

4.Establishment of management mechanism

4.1   Ramsar Management Regulation: serves as the basic and master management plan for the whole national park.

4..2   Regulation on sustainable and wise use of wetlands resource of XTNP – Xuan Thuy Ramsar:

Benefit and responsibility sharing is the real local needs in Xuan Thuy Ramsar, which promote local authorities and communities in the area to legalize regulations for balancing resource conservation and economic development. More importantly, those regulations had developed through participation approach, in which local communities especially those rely on and impact on wetlands actively got involved from planning, implementing to monitoring steps. Regulations obtained local commitment were then submitted to authorized institutions at higher levels for approval such as Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development and Provincial People’s Committee.

One successful story is the piloting activity to set up regulation for co-management among XTNP management board, local councils and clam farmers initiated by XTNP in 2006. The guideline/regulation clearly defined responsibilities and benefits of each stakeholder as the local harvest and culture clams on over 1,000 hectares of the mud-flat in the core zone of the park. As a result, clams were harvested under control (at appropriate times and areas) to preserve the shellfish resources while local people can continue to exploit and generate good income from wetlands resources and contribute to a management fund (through paying tax). Now, this co-management guideline has become a case study for other natural reserve sites in Vietnam and proved to the National Government possibility to mitigate laws regarding to sustainable management of natural resources based on wise use and good livelihood practices of the local people.

4.3   Cooperation mechanism among relevant institutions:

4.4   Eco-tourism management plan: This is an on-going task for the park to develop regulations and development plans to promote eco-tourism service, especially that based on community.

4.5   Green village conventions: XTNP stay closely with communities to make them understand the importance of environmental and resource protection, thereby facilitating villages to develop “Green village convention” regarding to biodiversity protection, migratory protection, wildlife protection, etc. There is a number of community clubs established with regards to the wetland resources protection purpose, such as Bird protection club, Shellfish Association, among others.

       5. Program for the buffer zone

There are different projects within the program to improve rural area and livelihoods of the local to create sustainable alternative income generating sources, which in turn will reduce human encroachment and exploitation pressure on the park.

In order to achieve the goal stated above, the program focuses on technical and financial supports, together with stimulating community-based eco-tourism. Technical support includes technology transfer for the local to be able to practice environmentally friendly livelihoods such as bee keeping, mushroom culture on rice straws, extensive shrimp farming, etc. In terms of financial support, the park invested for the local communities to set up livelihood pilots, and construct welfare centers, for example: Community center of environmental education, schools, public health centers, community houses, transportation (roads), and Environmental sanitation services. All of those have improve quality of life of the local communities living in the buffer zone of the park, which gradually change their attitudes and awareness on environment and sustainable development cemented tightly with the wetlands resources.

One major component of the program for buffer zone development is eco-tourism. Master plan for eco-tourism development in XTNP area has a vision of 15-20 years, and set out steps to gradually upgrade facilities, human resources and services for eco-tourism. At the same time, the park focuses more on “marketing” to introduce Xuan Thuy to the public, and cooperates with tourism agencies to explore and open potential tours, especially bird watching tours for national and international visitors. On the ground, the park highlights role of community participation in the eco-tourism system in the Ramsar.

CONCLUSION

Xuan Thuy Ramsar has been through a hard period with strong supports of Government and national and international organizations to achieved successes in its life-work of conservation and development. There would be many challenges ahead,   XTNP management board would require proper management policies to uphold its values for benefiting communities in the short terms, and to preserve the wetlands for meeting demands of the next generations.


        

Small opinion – Big success  (09:56 | 08-06-2015)

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