Vietnam News

Tien Hai reserve saved from development in win for nature in Vietnam

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Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh signed a decision this month to fully retain Tien Hai Nature Reserve, in a rare example of environmental protection winning over development in the Southeast Asian country.

Located in the northern coastal province of Thai Binh, the reserve gained attention in 2023 after the provincial government announced a plan to remove protection from almost 90% of the area.

This would have reduced the reserve area from 12,500 to 1,230 hectares (nearly 31,000 to just over 3,000 acres) to open up space for a proposed residential, resort and golf course complex called the Con Vanh Ecological Urban Area.

The reserve is part of the broader Red River Delta Biosphere Reserve. UNESCO notes that within this reserve, “[m]angroves and intertidal habitats of the Red River Delta form wetlands of high biodiversity, especially in the Xuan Thuy and Tien Hai districts. These wetlands are of global importance as migratory sites for several bird species.”

According to state media, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) both reacted negatively to Thai Binh’s plan. Neither ministry had approved the reduction of Tien Hai’s size, which went against the Law on Forest Protection and Development.

Trinh Le Nguyen, executive director of the environmental NGO People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature), led awareness-raising efforts on the issue, writing detailed Facebook posts about Tien Hai’s ecological importance.

“I think there was a unanimous objection to the plan from the two national agencies under MARD and MONRE, in addition to public opinion through active support of the Vietnamese media,” Nguyen told Mongabay in an email. “In a meeting commenting on the planning proposal of Thai Binh, several experts also opposed the idea of converting the nature reserve.”

He added he was heartened by the news, particularly given the relatively low-profile status of Tien Hai, which isn’t a national park or a tourism draw.

“This is certainly a positive move for conservation, especially for lesser-known ecosystems like wetland, which are seen as wastelands by many people,” Nguyen said. “We should also praise the government for listening to our voices.”

The Thai Binh government plans to set up a project to research estuary vegetation and the area’s mangrove ecosystem to ensure future sustainability, indicating a stark reversal from the previous plan to fully develop the region.

By Michael Tatarski – – March 11, 2024

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