Intensive shrimp aquaculture and destructive fishing practices have contributed to coastal erosion and reduced biodiversity in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Ben Tre, according to a community-based project carried out in the region.
The project’s community eco-tourism model was implemented in Thanh Phong Commune in Thanh Phu District, 70 kilometres from Ben Tre City.
Erosion in many places in the Mekong Delta, especially Ben Tre and Tra Vinh provinces, has become a serious issue, with 500 hectares of land now eroded along the coast.
The Centre for Transfer of Technology-Services and Community Development for Vietnamese Agriculture-Fishery carried out the pilot project from 2013 to this year, which is funded by Mangroves for the Future (MFF).
MFF, led by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP), is a partnership-based initiative promoting investments in coastal ecosystems that support sustainable development.
The commune’s Thanh Loc and Thanh Loi villages are under pressure because of reduced forest biodiversity, pollution from intensive farming on sand dunes, failure of clam crops, and destructive fishing practices.
Under the project, the two coastal villages were selected as pilot sites for co-management of natural resources. About 750 households participated in the project.
The coastal belt in this area is about 700 metres wide, classified as protection forests, managed by the Ben Tre Forest Management Board.
The local residents developed their own co-management agreement, with help from a Co-management Facilitation Group.
A co-management board and patrol group composed of local residents were formed to implement the activities, which included raising community awareness about protecting and conserving the coastal ecosystem.
Other objectives included increasing the income and welfare of poor households and women’s income through a sustainable community-based eco-tourism model.
Six community training events were organised on sustainable natural resource management, biodiversity and eco-tourism.
Five career groups, consisting of a total of 59 residents, were trained in ecotourism operations, and distributed eco-tour materials, signboards and flyers.
Forty of the residents organised trial tours, earning money from eco-tourism.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, sea water intrudes about 30-40 metres into coastal land in the region, and erosion occurs in 20 places along 200 km of coastline.
Experts forecast that 39 per cent of the Delta area will be 30 metres under sea water by 2100 due to global warming.