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US funds Mekong Delta coastal habitat protection

By Minh Nga   October 22, 2021 | 04:07 am PT
US funds Mekong Delta coastal habitat protection
A fish farm off Ha Tien Town of Kien Giang Province, June 2021. Photo by VnExpres/Nguyen Phuong
A project to conserve coastal habitats in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta has been launched with financial support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

With a planned budget of up to $2.9 million, the three-year project aims to increase the sustainability of fisheries, enhance climate change adaptation, and improve biodiversity conservation, the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi said in a statement Thursday.

The project, called the Mekong Delta Coastal Habitat Conservation project, was announced during U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit to Vietnam in August.

It will be implemented by the USAID, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Directorate of Fisheries of the Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The Mekong Delta and its islands are home to 70 percent of Vietnam’s mangroves and 90 percent of its seagrass beds.

Fed by the sediment and nutrients from the Mekong River, the targeted habitats support Vietnam’s richest fishing grounds, but they are under growing threats.

The delta’s mangrove forests, which provide nursery habitat for sea bass, snapper, and other commercially important species, and important protection for coastal communities from storm surges, are declining due to various reasons including rising sea levels.

The delta’s crucial fishery habitats are threatened by environmental pressures including prolonged droughts, rising temperatures, and aquaculture demand for groundwater, not to mention intensive near-shore fishing which has depleted fish stocks, causing cascading ecological damage.

By partnering with businesses, provincial governments, the management board of Phu Quoc Marine Protected Area (MPA) of Phu Quoc National Park and fishing communities, the project will work to mitigate threats to coastal biodiversity and fisheries, and enhance coastal resilience in the Mekong Delta.

Geographically, the project’s activities will focus on the delta’s lowest lying and most vulnerable coastlines along the region’s East and West Seas, Phu Quoc MPA, and three small island clusters in the West Sea.

The main components of the project include: strengthening the management of Phu Quoc MPA for more effective habitat and species conservation; establishing a network of locally managed marine areas to protect coral reefs, seagrass beds in three island clusters; and exploring solutions to conserve and expand mangrove forests to increase fish nursery habitat and coastal biodiversity.

The Mekong Delta is the final destination of the Mekong River, which flows through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam before reaching the sea.

Formed by sediment and sand following the flow of the Mekong over 6,000 years, the delta has an area of almost 40,000 square kilometers, making up 12 percent of the nation’s total, according to the Southern Institute of Water Resources Research.

The region’s fertility, however, is under severe threat because of upstream dams that block the river’s flow, intensive aquaculture, climate change impacts and other factors.

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