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    In ASEAN community, there are about 623 million people living together and surviving under the protection of Mother Nature with more than thousands years of history. There are coincident mountains and forests, wide sea, long rivers - a land of spiritual masterpieces, a vast territory connecting people with people, people with nature in coexistence and development. Nature is not only a shelter to protect the peoples of the ASEAN community, but also a place for formation and development of natural resources, including biodiversity. Nature also creates unique cultures of each nation, including a unique traditional knowledge system that relies on nature to survive and develop. Therefore, the ASEAN community should be deeply aware that the well-being, prosperity and happiness of each member in particular and elsewhere on the planet in general depend on the health of the nature.

 

Vân Long Wetland Reserve was recognised by the Ramsar Convention Secretariat as the world's No. 2.360 Ramsar and Vietnam's 9th Ramsar site

 

Biodiversity is an invaluable asset

    The ASEAN region has been recognized and assessed by the international community as a highly biodiversity territory thanks to its diversity and richness on natural landscapes, terrestrial ecosystems, wetlands and islands which are the foundation to harbor habitats for animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms. The natural land area of ​​ASEAN accounts for only 3% of the global natural area, but is the home of more than 18% of plants, animals, mushrooms... This is also a region with vast area of ​​mangroves forest, accounting for 35% of the world's mangroves and with 30% of coral reefs. In particular, there are many valuable and endemic plants and animals in the area such as: the Koupey (Bos sauveli), the Gaur (Bos gaurus), Tragulus versicolor, Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus), Sao la (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), Eld's deer (Rucervus eldii), Australopithecus, Snub-nosed monkeys (Trachypithecus poliocephalus), black-shanked douc (Pygathrix nigripes), Delacour’s Langur (Trachypithecus delacouri), Dugon… Besides, there are thousands species of domestic animals and plants for food, medicine and other value.

    This is valuable natural resource play an important role not only for the lives of the peoples in ASEAN community, but also for the present and future generations of mankind. According to Nature's Global Assessment of Ecosystem Services by World Wide Fund (WWF), an estimated of 4 billion people who use medicine of natural origin for health care and up to 70 % of medicines or product of natural origin that can cure cancer...

    The great value of biodiversity is not only meaningful regionally to the ASEAN community, but also globally. Therefore, biodiversity is an invaluable asset of mankind in both health and life. The existence and the peaceful life of every people all mankind depend greatly on the biodiversity on the Earth. If this priceless asset is reduced, or lost, it will cause unpredictable consequences, not only for the living environment, but also for human health, crop production, livestock and water resources. According to the United Nations, when natural ecosystems are destroyed, people no longer enjoy free services such as water, fresh air and protection from extreme weather events.

    However, the current environmental pollution is alarming. The decline and depletion of ecosystems in the forest and the sea, along with the problem of hunting, illegal trafficking of wildlife leads to the risk of extinction of many wildlife species. According to international organizations, over the last 40 years, 60% of the wildlife population has been seriously declined (IUCN) and it is estimated that there are about 1 million plant and animal species are facing extinction (UNEP). In addition, climate change and unsustainable use of natural resource have caused ecological and economic crises and affecting human health. That will have serious consequences for the life today and tomorrow.

    Therefore, the connection of artificial intelligence and modern technology in the ASEAN community with other nations in the world will form a synergy, promoting common understanding in discovering the mysteries of the nature in the cycle of ecological balance, to integrate it into the process of socio-economic development and environmental protection, biodiversity conservation.

ASEAN community works together to conserve biodiversity

    Recognizing the role of nature, for more than half a century, ASEAN member countries have always shown their sense of responsibility in biodiversity conservation. The countries in the region have connected and built up an increasingly stable, strong socio-economic and national security community, including environmental protection and biodiversity conservation through constructing a system of national parks and protected areas on land, sea, islands and wetlands. So far, thousands of protected areas have been established with the purpose of protecting the standard samples of nature with scientific value, economic value, endemic species, valuable natural heritages cultural and historical values. There are typical national parks such as: Ta Ses Merimbum (Brunei); Kinabulu, Mulu, Taman Nabara (Malaysia); Iglit Baco, MT-APO (Philippines), Cúc Phương (Việt Nam)...

    In addition, countries in the region also improve the legal system to achieve effective management of natural resources. As early as the 1960s, Thailand had a Wildlife Protection Law and by 1961 a National Park Law. So far, Thailand has had 77 national parks and protected areas with an area of ​​3.937.673 ha, accounting for 7,61% of Thailand's natural area and is expected to increase the number of national parks and protected areas to 127 in the future with 6,488,062 ha and proposes to build a trans boundary protected area with Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia are respectively 12, 5, 6 and 5 areas. Thailand is also the first country in Southeast Asia to ban logging from natural forests since 1989 and only allow the exploitation of timber in bare forest. In Indonesia - the country with the most islands (13.667) in Southeast Asia - the Government has established 320 protected areas with a total area of ​​17.300.000 ha. If including the Marine Protected Areas, the area for biodiversity conservation in Indonesia is up to 21.250.000 ha, accounting for 11,1% of the territory.

Vietnam conserver biodiversity and contributes to enriching the biodiversity in ASEAN

    Right from the early 50s of the twentieth century, the Communist Party and the Government of Việt Nam, headed by President Hồ Chí Minh, had set out a policy on environmental protection and biodiversity conservation. Although during the years of war, it was full of hardships, the Government of Việt Nam and the people of Việt Nam had tried to overcome all difficulties, to fulfill the call of Uncle Hồ to respectfully protect natural resources, Forest protection, wildlife protection. In the early spring of 1959, President Hồ Chí Minh launched the "Planting New Year" movement and personally planted some trees along Ba Vi mountain forest. Until now, it has experienced 61 spring seasons, the movement of planting trees, planting forests and protecting trees has become a sacred cultural action of the whole Vietnamese community, from the plains to the mountains and to the remote islands such as Hạ Long, Côn Đảo, Phú Quốc, Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa, contributing to the richness of biodiversity in the regions.

    Not only planting and protecting trees, the Government of Việt Nam has also issued decisions banning the hunting of elephants, tigers, rare animals and birds in forests and in cities. In June 1962, President Hồ Chí Minh signed a Decision to establish Cúc Phương forbidden forest, Ninh Bình Province, with an area of ​​22.000 ha. This is a humid tropical primary forest with high biodiversity with 2.234 species of plants, 669 species of vertebrates, 2.000 species of insects and thousands of species of crustaceans and molluscs. In particular, Delacour’s Langur has been discovered - a primate species endemic to the Red River Delta of Việt Nam and many rare and precious animal and plant species. Since then, Việt Nam has built a system of 167 protected areas including 34 national parks, 58 natural reserves, 14 species/habitat reserves, 45 landscape protection areas, 16 marine protected areas... with a total of 2.198.774 ha, accounting for about 7% of the country's natural area and is expected to increase the area of ​​the protected area system to around 2.940.000 ha after 2020. In addition, Việt Nam has built 4 biodiversity corridor in the Northeast and South Central regions with a total area of ​​about 120.000 ha...

    With the great effort and responsibility of the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Agency - Vietnam Environment Administration - Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), Forest Protection Department - Vietnam Administration of Forestry - Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), with the support of international organizations, especially ASEAN countries - ASEAN Biodiversity Center, some protected areas in Việt Nam have been internationally and regionally recognized, these are 2 World natural heritage sites, 8 Ramsar sites, 9 Biosphere reserves and 10 ASEAN Heritage parks. Việt Nam is also an active member in implementing international treaties on biodiversity such as Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), Ramsar Convention, International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which are international legal basis for conservation. Việt Nam has also issued many legal documents related to biodiversity, including the Law on Environmental Protection (2014), the Law on Fisheries, the Law on Forestry (2017), the Law on the Sea (2014) and the Law on Biodiversity (2008).

    The adoption of the Biodiversity Law by the National Assembly of Việt Nam has greatly contributed to the process of managing and conserving of biodiversity in Việt Nam. It can be affirmed that so far, Việt Nam s only country among ASEAN and one of the 10 countries in the world to enact the Law on Biodiversity. It is responsible effort of the MONRE, the agency assigned by the Prime Minister to act as the state management of environment and biodiversity.

    This also shows that biodiversity conservation activities in recent years in Việt Nam have contributed to the joint actions of Southeast Asian countries in nature protection and biodiversity conservation. This is not merely a scientific reflection of an overall picture of the achievement of biodiversity conservation for sustainable development in the region, but also showing the sense of responsibility of ASEAN Governments for countries and people around the world, for a healthy nature to conserve biodiversity, serving the peace and happiness of human beings.

Proposing some solutions to biodiversity conservation in Việt Nam and in the region

    One of the current priority issues is to strengthen the close and regular coordination in the exchange of information, data, biodiversity status and trends, and experiences in biodiversity management in order to prevent and address the risk of natural ecosystem depletion, reduction or loss of species, especially rare and endemic flora and fauna in ASEAN.

    Collaborate in researching and developing planning of protected areas and transnational green corridors which creating a safe movement for wildlife species.

    Strengthen the control and management of the exploitation, trade and transport of endangered, precious and rare wild animals and plants in each member country of ASEAN region.

    Strengthen cooperation in training human resources with high theoretical and technological qualifications to manage biodiversity conservation in sustainable development way.

   The ASEAN Center for Biodiversity should periodically organize seminars for the exchange of experiences in management of national parks and protected areas, as well as for the agencies in charge of nature protection and biodiversity conservation in the region.

    Appropriate policies are needed to attract investment from private enterprises involved in the management of national parks and ecotourism development.

    Over the past 50 years, Southeast Asian countries have not only connected with each other, but also have been working closely with countries around the world to protect nature, conserve biodiversity for peace and happiness of human. With the efforts of member governments, the participation of the community of ethnic groups in the ASEAN family, with the help and cooperation of international organizations, the task of protecting nature and biodiversity in the ASEAN region is constantly developing, demonstrating a system of National Parks, Protected Ares, Natural Heritage, natural landscapes with the nuance of a beautiful tropical nature, as an input of a green economy, circulating economy in sustainable development. However, governments and people in the ASEAN community need to make greater efforts in management to be a physical and spiritual support for the peoples of the region, contributing to the abundance and enrichment of green capital worldwide.

 

Prof. PhD. Đặng Huy Huỳnh

 Vietnam Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment

(Nguồn: Bài đăng trên Tạp chí Môi trường số Chuyên đề Tiếng Anh II/2020)

 

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