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Bến Tre outlines plan to promote tourism investment

The Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Bến Tre, which has a 65-km long coastline, plans to seek more investment in the tourism sector, particularly for three of its islets. The three islets, where fruit trees of high economic value are grown, have hundreds of historical and cultural sites suited to tourism development.

Last year, Bến Tre welcomed about 1.2 million tourists, an increase of 12 per cent compared to 2016. Of the figure, about 43 per cent were international tourists. Total revenue from tourism reached more than VNĐ1 trillion (US$44 million). In recent years, the province has promoted ecotourism, cultural tourism, heritage sites, and special destinations. Tourism attractions include fruit gardens, rowboats, horse-drawn carriage rides, and Đờn Ca Tài Tử (southern folk music).

Phan Văn Thông, director of Phụng Islet Tourism-Service-Trading Co, said the company annually receives more than 500,000 tourists, with 20 per cent of them foreigners. “My company will continue to upgrade environmental sanitation, train tour guides, and improve service quality,” he said.

Lê Ngọc Long, chairman of the Việt Nam-Japan Advisory Council, said: “Japanese are interested in Việt Nam’s ecotourism with riverside gardens. Bến Tre has a lot of potential to exploit this great resource.”“In the near future when the Việt Nam-Japan commodity trading floor is established, we will introduce Bến Tre’s tourism products to the Japanese,” he said.

Trần Duy Phương, deputy director of the province’s Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said Bến Tre’s tourism industry faces challenges such as tourists’ short stays, poor technical infrastructure, and ineffective investment promotion.

Many of the activities are similar to other provinces in the delta, but there is no large entertainment park. A lack of trained tourism staff is another problem. Tourists usually visit Bến Tre City and sites in the districts of Châu Thành, Chợ Lách and Thạnh Phú. Châu Thành District welcomes about 700,000 visitors a year, accounting for over 50 per cent of the province’s total number of tourists. However, other localities are facing difficulties attracting tourists and tourism investment.

Nguyễn Văn Sơn, managing director of Hàm Luông Tourism Co Ltd in Bến Tre City, said international visitors travelling to Việt Nam are concerned about environmental sanitation, food safety, high prices for services and goods, and traffic problems. “Many tourist and travel companies complain about crowds in some places, and people asking for tips,” he said.

Phương said the province targets having two million visitors, with 47 per cent of international tourists, by 2020. In addition, total revenue from tourists is targeted at more than VNĐ2 trillion ($88 million), with an annual increase of at least 25 per cent. By 2030, tourism will become a key economic sector, contributing 8-10 per cent of total production in the province, he said.

Bến Tre has five projects in the tourism sector, seven projects under construction, and 10 projects in tourism development calling for investment.

Nguyễn Văn Tuấn, general director of National Administration of Tourism, said that Bến Tre Province should focus on its local resources and develop products from coconut trees, create homestay services, upgrade infrastructure, promote quality services, and provide support policies for tourism businesses. “It’s necessary to raise awareness about tourism, ensuring that we have both quality and efficiency, and develop activities and products that create a brand for Bến Tre tourism,” Võ Thành Hạo, secretary of the province’s Party Committee, said.

The province has 84 tourist sites, more than 2,000 hotel rooms, 54 horse carts, 73 boats with paddles, and 64 boats with more than 1,600 seats used to transport tourists.


Using VietGAP standards leads to higher profits for farmers

Farmers who grow watermelon in Cà Mau Province’s Cà Mau City are raking in high profits because of a bumper harvest and rising prices for the Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday when the fruit is used on virtually every family altar.

Lê Văn Muội, who grew 4,000 sq.m of watermelon under Vietnamese good agricultural practices (VietGAP) standards, harvested watermelon last week and sold them for VNĐ8,000 (US 35 cent) a kilo. After deducting all production costs, he was able to earn a profit of VNĐ30 million ($1,300) per 1,000 sq.m. “This is the first year I’ve used VietGAP standards. I’m very happy because I had a bumper crop and high prices,” he said. In previous years, Muội grew watermelon using traditional methods and did not see high profits.

In recent years, growing watermelon for Tết brought high profits for farmers who decided to expand cultivation for the Tết crop.

In Lý Văn Lâm Commune’s specialised watermelon cultivation area, farmers have planted 73 ha for this Tết, up 13 ha against last Tết. Of the figure, 21 ha are planted under VietGAP standards. Farmers have planted red and yellow flesh watermelons and the seedless variety, all of which have had a high yield and good quality. The commune’s watermelon is famous for its sweetness. Many watermelon farmers have escaped poverty and become wealthy, according to the Cà Mau Province Farmers Association, which has organised courses on farming techniques to help them improve their profits. For this crop, farmers earned an average profit of more than VNĐ15 million for each 1,000 sq.m, according to the association. Many farmers who grow vegetables in the commune have applied VietGAP standards for mustard leaves, water spinach, cucumber, bitter melon and tomato.

Nguyễn Chí Thanh, who owns a 1.3 ha garden in the commune’s Chánh Hamlet, said his family had grown five types of vegetables and fruits under VietGAP standards, including bitter melon. Last week, traders purchased his bitter melon for VNĐ10,000 a kilo, which is expected to rise near Tết, he said. “My family will have a good Tết thanks to our use of VietGAP standards,” he said.

Growing VietGAP vegetables normally offers a profit of 15-20 per cent higher than normal vegetables. Nguyễn Văn Nhàn, chairman of the Lý Văn Lâm Commune Farmers Association, said the farmers should develop a brand for vegetables and expand their sales network.

The Lý Văn Lâm Agricultural Service Co-operative, which has planted vegetables under VietGAP standards, plans to develop five sale points in Cà Mau City this year and expand its vegetables planted under VietGAP standards to 10ha. As of last December, the co-operative had planted five hectares of VietGAP vegetables.


New study finds sea level rise accelerating

Global sea level rise has been accelerating in recent decades, rather than increasing steadily, according to a new study based on 25 years of NASA and European satellite data.

This acceleration, driven mainly by increased melting in Greenland and Antarctica, has the potential to double the total sea level rise projected by 2100 when compared to projections that assume a constant rate of sea level rise, according to lead author Steve Nerem. Nerem is a professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, a fellow at Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), and a member of NASA’s Sea Level Change team.

If the rate of ocean rise continues to change at this pace, sea level will rise 26 inches (65 centimeters) by 2100 — enough to cause significant problems for coastal cities, according to the new assessment by Nerem and colleagues from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; CU Boulder; the University of South Florida in Tampa; and Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. The team, driven to understand and better predict Earth’s response to a warming world, published their work Feb. 12 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This is almost certainly a conservative estimate,” Nerem said. “Our extrapolation assumes that sea level continues to change in the future as it has over the last 25 years. Given the large changes we are seeing in the ice sheets today, that’s not likely.”

Rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere increase the temperature of air and water, which causes sea level to rise in two ways. First, warmer water expands, and this “thermal expansion” of the ocean has contributed about half of the 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) of global mean sea level rise we’ve seen over the last 25 years, Nerem said. Second, melting land ice flows into the ocean, also increasing sea level across the globe.

These increases were measured using satellite altimeter measurements since 1992, including the Topex/Poseidon, Jason-1, Jason-2 and Jason-3 satellite missions, which have been jointly managed by multiple agencies, including NASA, Centre national d’etudes spatiales (CNES), European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the U.S. portion of these missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The rate of sea level rise in the satellite era has risen from about 0.1 inch (2.5 millimeters) per year in the 1990s to about 0.13 inches (3.4 millimeters) per year today.

“The Topex/Poseidon/Jason altimetry missions have been essentially providing the equivalent of a global network of nearly half a million accurate tide gauges, providing sea surface height information every 10 days for over 25 years,” said Brian Beckley, of NASA Goddard, second author on the new paper and lead of a team that processes altimetry observations into a global sea level data record. “As this climate data record approaches three decades, the fingerprints of Greenland and Antarctic land-based ice loss are now being revealed in the global and regional mean sea level estimates.”

Even with a 25-year data record, detecting acceleration is challenging. Episodes like volcanic eruptions can create variability: the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 decreased global mean sea level just before the Topex/Poseidon satellite launch, for example. In addition, global sea level can fluctuate due to climate patterns such as El Niños and La Niñas (the opposing phases of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation), which influence ocean temperature and global precipitation patterns.

Nerem and his team used climate models to account for the volcanic effects and other datasets to determine the El Niño/La Niña effects, ultimately uncovering the underlying rate and acceleration of sea level rise over the last quarter century.

The team also used tide gauge data to assess potential errors in the altimeter estimate.

“The tide gauge measurements are essential for determining the uncertainty in the global mean sea level acceleration estimate,” said co-author Gary Mitchum, University of South Florida College of Marine Science. “They provide the only assessments of the satellite instruments from the ground.” Others have used tide gauge data to measure sea level acceleration, but scientists have struggled to pull out other important details from tide-gauge data, such as changes in the last couple of decades due to more active ice sheet melt.

In addition to NASA’s involvement in missions that make direct sea level observations from space, the agency’s Earth science work includes a wide-ranging portfolio of missions, field campaigns and research that contributes to improved understanding of how global sea level is changing. Airborne campaigns such as Operation IceBridge and Oceans Melting Greenland gather measurements of ice sheets and glaciers, while computer modeling research improves our understanding of how Antarctica and Greenland will respond in a warming climate.

In 2018, NASA will launch two new satellite missions that will be critical to improving future sea level projections: the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission, a partnership with GeoForschungsZentrum (GFZ) in Germany, will continue measurements of the mass of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets; while the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) will make highly accurate observations of the elevation of ice sheets and glaciers.

Việt Nam is running out of clean water

Water experts in Việt Nam have suggested re-using waste water to help protect vital resources. As untreated waste water is discharged directly into the environment, both surface water and underground water resources face high risk of either running out or becoming too polluted to drink.

Water reserves in Việt Nam have fallen sharply in the last two decades. The average consumption of water per person was 12,800cu.m in 1990. It dropped to 9,000cu.m per person in 2015 and is likely to fall to 3,000cu.m in 2025.

Đào Trọng Tứ, director of  the Centre for Sustainable Development of Water Resources and Adaptation to Climate Change, said that a quickly growing population and more economic activities required more water. However, this had also led to more polluted waste-water being generated.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, there are more than 200 industrial zones in Việt Nam, but few have sustainable waste-water treatment solutions.

More than one million cubic metres of waste water is generated daily in industrial zones, but 75 per cent is left untreated and discharged straight into the environment.

This has created an urgent need for waste-water treatment solutions. If waste-water is treated properly, it can be re-used and become an additional water source for human consumption and industrial or farm use.

However, Tứ said that for too long, Việt Nam had not paid proper attention to re-using waste water because it was believed to be rich in water sources.

There used to be a conception that it was unnecessary to re-use waste water.

However, recycling water required big investment, which was a major barrier for investors examining waste-water treatment projects, Tứ said.

Meanwhile, the Government has developed few policies or incentives to encourage investors to invest in these projects.

Experts said that in order to curb environmental pollution caused by untreated waste water as well as to promote the use of treated waste water, the Government and businesses should pay more attention to developing waste-water treatment and re-use.

Head of the ministry’s Department of Water Resource Management, Hoàng Văn Bẩy, said stricter punishments, including criminal charges, should be handed out to those who polluted water resources. He also said it was necessary to develop mechanisms between water use and waste-water treatment.

He suggested industrial water users should be asked to pay money up front to those appointed to treat their waste water.

The Government is seeking tailored solutions to develop guidelines and strategies to better manage the country’s water resources.

A workshop on the subject, co-organised by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and World Bank on February 6, heard about major difficulties that the Government had in managing water resourses.

Speaking at the workshop, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Trần Quý Kiên, said the country had many water-related problems including higher water demand for socio-economic development and degraded water resources.

Surface water sources, such as rivers, lakes and ponds in almost all urban areas, industrial zones and trade villages, were said to be polluted.

The construction of hydropower plants in upper parts of rivers created negative impacts on the downstreams, Kiên said, pointing to more severe droughts and salt water intrusion in the Mekong Delta region.

Việt Nam also found it difficult to manage rivers that run through several nations. For examples, the Hồng (Red) River flows from Yunnan in Southwest China through northern Việt Nam to the Gulf of Tonkin.

From the Tibetan Plateau, the Mekong River runs through China’s Yunnan Province, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Việt Nam.

The Krông Pơ Kô River and Đắk Krô River in the Central Highlands region lie in both Việt Nam and Cambodia. And the Kỳ Cùng River starts in the northern province of Lạng Sơn and flows into China.

Nguyễn Thu Phương from the ministry’s Water Resources Management Department added that as an impact of climate change, rising sea water levels caused more floods and salt water intrusion in coastal areas.

“Millions of hectares of coastal land are inundated, hundreds of hectares of mangrove forests are already lost and the wetland ecosystem is affected strongly,” Phương said.

Lê Hùng Nam, head of Water Resources Management and Clean Water, said that the shortage of water in rivers, especially during the dry season, forced irrigation works to operate under their design capacity. And lower water river levels in major rivers forced pumping stations to halt operations.

Portfolio & Operations Manager of the World Bank Việt Nam, Achim Fock, said that one of challenges in managing water resources in Việt Nam was the management of the whole water circle to optimise benefits, to ensure quality of water as well as enough water for rural areas.

Triệu Đức Huy, deputy director of the National Centre for Water Resources Planning and Investigation, said that synchronous measures were needed to improve water resources management, including those to improve the legal framework.

Huy also spoke of the need to strengthen international co-operation, implement scientific and technology applications in water management as well as improve public awareness in saving water.


PM urges stronger cooperation with Netherlands

Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has called on the Netherlands to continue supporting and cooperating with Việt Nam in the fields of animal husbandry, cultivation, food safety, post-harvest networks and market development. While receiving Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, in Hà Nội yesterday, Phúc said Việt Nam is impressed with the achievements the Netherlands has recorded in building irrigation works, seaports, high-tech agriculture and especially its adaptation to climate change. Thanks to experience shared by the Netherlands, Việt Nam successfully organised a major conference on climate change response in the Mekong Delta region, with the attendance of the Deputy Delta Commissioner of the Netherlands and other experts in this field, he said. The PM praised the Netherlands as one of Asia’s leading trade partners, noting that Dutch businesses have invested nearly US$8 billion in Việt Nam. He urged the Government of the Netherlands to encourage Dutch firms to increase investments in Việt Nam in various realms, particularly in climate change response and renewable energy.

Continue reading “PM urges stronger cooperation with Netherlands”

Mekong Delta provinces fail to meet Paris agreement.

The Mekong Delta province of An Giang is being helped to produce a detailed and workable draft plan to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Vũ Minh Hải, chairwoman of the Climate Change Working Group, said this yesterday at a workshop in the province organised by Oxfam Việt Nam and the provincial People’s Committee. Hải said the draft plan seemed to lack detailed targets, such as how many tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) the province could cut down by 2030. It also failed to engage local farmers, especially vulnerable groups, who suffered the most from climate change, she said.

Continue reading “Mekong Delta provinces fail to meet Paris agreement.”

Communications strategy launched for Mekong Delta Plan

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) in collaboration with IUCN Vietnam and Can Tho University launched a project entitled “Development and Implementation of a Communication and Information Dissemination Strategy for the Principles and Recommendations in the Mekong Delta Plan” in the Delta’s Can Tho city on November 15.

The project is part of the Strategic Partnership Arrangement on Climate Change Adaptation and Water Management between the Governments of Vietnam and the Netherlands, with financial support from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).

The main objective of the launch is to introduce the project and a comprehensive communications strategy to disseminate the principles of the Mekong Delta Plan (MDP) to the 13 cities and provinces in the Delta. With the message “The future of the Delta is in our hands”, the communications strategy aims to provide guidance on the implementation of communications campaigns, including a training of trainers (ToT) program and training workshops involving the 13 cities and provinces.

The Mekong Delta has played an important role in Vietnam’s economic development over the last few decades but the impact of climate change, poor development, and the over-exploitation of natural resources are now seriously threatening its future.

The government and the international community have been developing various strategies and programs to adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change, of which the MDP has been a key initiative. Written in 2013 within the framework agreement between the Governments of Vietnam and the Netherlands, it has become a key reference document and source of guidance for the Vietnamese Government. The Plan recommends principles for sustainable development, taking into account both economic prospects and environmental considerations, including climate change.

The MDP has been endorsed by high-level leaders of the government, donors, and implementing partners. There is limited exposure and understanding, however, of the principles and recommendations of the MDP at the lower levels of government and in the community. The understanding as well as endorsement of these principles will leverage the effect of the MDP on the development of the Mekong Delta. It is therefore critical to enhance awareness among grassroots levels, which are identified as civil servants at the provincial and district levels and farmers.

The project is being led by MoNRE and has been endorsed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Planning and Investment. Implementing partners are made up of a consortium that includes UNESCO-IHE (Lead), Can Tho University, IUCN Vietnam, Water.NL, Fresh Studio, the Vietnam Farmers’ Union, Royal Haskoning DHV, Wageningen University and KnowH2O.

Source: Vietnam Economic Times