Popular tourist destinations in Vietnam are being trashed at an alarming rate, and tourism experts are calling for immediate actions to protect the green environment and ensure a sustainable development.
Representatives from the Institute for Tourism Development Research (ITDR) and the International Organization for Conservation of Nature (WWF) said at a Thursday seminar within the Vietnam International Tourism Fair that the amount of plastic waste being discharged into the environment at famous tourist destinations has been happening at an “alarming rate.”
In UNESCO World Heritage Site Ha Long Bay an average of four tons of waste is discharged every day, mainly plastic waste floating in the waters. In the central tourist hub of Da Nang, out of 1,100 tons of waste is discharged every day, 17% is plastic waste, equivalent to 20.8 tons per day.
In Phu Yen Province, one of the less crowded tourist places in the central coast, plastic waste accounted for 18.31% of the 524 tons of daily waste. Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s largest island in the south, is dumped a daily amount of plastic waste of up to 32.1 tons, accounting for 19% of its total daily waste.
Nguyen Thi Ngoc Anh from the Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment, under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said, as cited by Vietnam News Agency, that each visitor discharges an average of 5-10 plastic bags and 2-4 plastic bottles or milk cartons each day.
Before the Covid outbreak, 85 million domestic tourists discarded nearly 61,000 tons of plastic waste every year, while 18 million international tourists threw away 55,000 tons, according to a report from ITDR.
“Without immediate measures, the amount of plastic waste from tourism activities will triple in by 2030,” said Nguyen Anh Tuan, director of ITDR.
“This will be a huge pressure on the environment and a serious threat to Vietnam’s coastal tourist destinations,” said Tuan.
Plastic waste pollution has already attacked Vietnam’s beautiful beaches and tourist hotspots. Recently, many foreign tourists complained that Ha Long Bay has been flooded with a huge volume of trash and styrofoam waste.
Styrofoam waste seen from a cruise ship in Ha Long Bay, April 8, 2023. Photo by Pham Ha
Phu Quoc Island, Cam Ranh, Da Nang and some popular tourist destinations have faced the same situation.
Vu Quoc Tri, chief of the Office of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, acknowledged that mass tourism development has left a negative impact on the environment, including plastic pollution.
“The duty of the tourism industry is to minimize those impacts,” Tri said, as cited by VNA.
But how to reduce plastic waste pollution?
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has been striving to ensure all tourist accommodations across Vietnam are free of plastic waste by 2025.
Vu The Binh, chairman of Vietnam Tourism Association, said tourism workers should be the first pioneers to say no to plastic waste and the tourism industry should increase campaigns to raise the awareness of environment protection among locals and tourists.
Nguyen Thi Thu Huyen, country coordinator of the Office of the Global Environment Facility under the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Vietnam, said as thounsands of tourism businesses offer specific action plans like reducing single-use plastic items in their restaurants and hotels, the tourism industry can work towards reducing plastic waste in a sustainable way.
The industry is working on a project to reduce plastic waste in popular tourist destinations, with Hoi An and Ninh Binh becoming the pioneers.
A number of restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions in Ninh Binh and Quang Nam provinces, home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites Trang An Landscape Complex and Hoi An Ancient Town, now say no to plastic products.
Hoi An currently has 27 business establishments such as cafés, homestay villas and restaurants that cut down on plastic waste and offer eco-friendly services.
La Siesta Hoi An Resort & Spa hotel has cut down about 3.5 tons of plastic per year while Silk Sense Hoi An River Resort has reduced the use of 20,000 single-use plastic bottles after 1.5 years of implementation.
Experts said it is necessary to develop action plans on reducing plastic waste in the tourism sector such as improving the system of sorting, collecting, recycling and treating plastic waste, promoting campaigns in tourist destinations to call on tourists not to discharge plastic waste into the environment as well as apply strict penalties for acts of plastic waste discharge.
In 2021, Vietnam finished in the bottom five of a global sustainable tourism ranking compiled by British market research firm Euromonitor International, placing 96th out of 99 economies.
The government earlier committed to reducing 75% of its plastics and stopping generating plastic waste in coastal tourist areas by 2030.
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