VN diversifies investments in special-use forests

The government of Vietnam has been trying to diversify investments in special-use forests (SUF) in order to improve financial flows for forest management, protection and conservation activities.

However, this trend has raised controversy, because there are difficulties and high risks.

Potential and risks

Vietnam is one of the countries with the highest biodiversity in the world, but the forest resources and biodiversity are on the decline.

VN diversifies investments in special-use forests



To solve the problem, Vietnam enacted the 1991 Law on Forest Protection and Development and the 1993 Land Law, and changed its approach from "production and exploitation of forests" to "nature conservation".

The system of SUF has been gradually established to protect the national forest ecosystem and plants and animal genetic resources; serve scientific research; protect historical, cultural and scenic sites; and serve tourism.

The state manages and protects SUFs with the legal system and necessary financial resources. However, the state budget doesn’t always have enough resources, so it is necessary to mobilize other resources for the protection and development of SUF.

Not all SUFs have potential for tourism development. Income sources from selling excursion tickets and leasing the forest environment have been below expectations.

Nguyen Quoc Dung from the Forestry General Directorate, said there is much controversy about the tendency because of many risks.

Not all SUFs have potential for tourism development. Income sources from selling excursion tickets and leasing the forest environment have been below expectations.

 


Experts warn that if Vietnam doesn’t not have a reasonable management mechanism, business in SUF may turn into public asset appropriation or ‘green grabbing’.

In this case, private investors, under the mask of forest conservation, use resources to make a profit instead of serving the public interest.

Striving for financial autonomy

In order to diversify sources of income for forest protection and conservation, agencies believe that the forest environment can be leased for ecotourism development.

Nguyen Huu Dung from the Vietnam Association of National Parks and Nature Reserves said Vietnam needs to pay attention to drawing up a strategy on ecotourism and building development plans through the country, in each locality, national park and nature reserve.

He also urged research on the potential for ecotourism and program ecotourism development in a way that would ensure both t'tourism development and environmental protection and cultural values.

The initiatives of payment for forest environmental services, forest carbon sequestration (providing public services), ecotourism development, forest environment leasing, and development of medicinal plants under forest canopy have been implemented on a trial basis.

To date, 61 out of 176 SUFs, or 35 percent, including 25 out of 34 national parks, or 74 percent, have been used for ecotourism development. However, the number of SUFs for ecotourism development remains modest.

Thanh Mai

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