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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        1  July  2011

New Vietnamese system to protect forests

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Vietnam has pioneered the development of the Payment for Forest Environment Services (PFES) programme, which aims to protect and preserve the country's natural heritage.

Dr. Nguyen Chi Thanh, senior forest and wetland consultant and a member of the PFES policy board, explained the initiative to participants at the Southeast Asia Regional Workshop yesterday in Hanoi, titled Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) and the Green Economy.

Thanh said the Prime Minister's September decree was a step forward on the pilot payment for the forest environmental service that will improve the economic aspect of ecosystems.

The three types of forest environment services included water regulations, soil conservation and landscape aesthetics. The service providers were publicly owned electric and water utilities and tourism operators, he said.

According to Thanh, if the scheme is well implemented, about US$40 million would be collected annually from service users of the existing 10 million hectares of natural forests in the country.

"That means service payment for one ha is only $4 per year," he said. Since the implementation of the scheme, in the Central Highland province of Lam Dong, some 210,000ha of forest have been protected and about 10,000 households, 80 per cent of which belong to ethnic minorities, have received money ($ 5.4 million) from the service.

Hua Duc Nhi, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the PFES has been a good source of funds to protect and develop forests and improved the government's policy on agriculture.

Nhi also spoke highly of the international initiative on TEEB.

"The initiative highlights the growing loss of biodiversity and ecosystem degradation and the benefits of conservation and sustainable use," Nhi said.

"It aims to promote a better understanding of the true economic value of ecosystem services. TEEB also seeks to offer economic tools and develop policies that properly take this value into account," he continued.

Dr Yyotsna Puri from the UNDP-UNEP Property Environment Initiative said the key message of the green economy was the close linkage between environmental and financial poverty.

He said some of the Millennium Development Goals might not be reachable due to the fact that most of the benefits of biodiversity are not visible in national and local budgets. They tend not to be factored in economic and financial planning or properly reflected in the policies, prices and markets that people encounter daily.

However, for Vietnam, where the majority of the population still survives on agriculture, forest protection and development are big challenges.


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