Vietnam’s ‘pearl island’ eyes freedom from plastic

By Minh Nga   November 8, 2018 | 08:31 pm PT
Vietnam’s ‘pearl island’ eyes freedom from plastic
A pile of waste in Phu Quoc Island. Photo by VTCNews/Thanh Tien
Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s biggest island, wants to be mostly plastic free by 2020 so as to promote genuine eco-tourism.

The southern province of Kien Giang, which is home to Phu Quoc, dubbed the "pearl island," worked with the World Wild Fund Vietnam (WWF) on Wednesday to map out a plan to say no to plastic waste on the island.

The plan will be executed over the next two years, the Voice of Vietnam reported.

Quang Trong Thao, deputy director of Kien Giang’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the amount of plastic waste in Vietnam in general, and Kien Giang and Phu Quoc in particular, has already reached alarming levels.

However, no details of specific steps that will be taken over the next two years were given. Whether or not there will be a ban on plastic goods, or more efficient trash collection was not mentioned.

The Prime Minister has approved a plan for Phu Quoc to become a tourist hub, with four major pillars for economic growth - tourism, services, education-healthcare and hi-tech agriculture.

But the island is yet to find a sustainable solution to deal with plastic waste.

Thao said he hopes the project will raise public awareness and make people reduce the use of plastic bags and bottles as well as discard plastic in the right places.

"Dealing with plastic waste is a difficult task for Phu Quoc and it needs specific actions from each organization and department to step by step reduce the consumption of single-use plastic bags and bottles and plastic straws," he said.

The key objective is for the marine environment of Phu Quoc, especially the core zone of Phu Quoc Marine Protected Area (MPA), the ecosystems of endangered species, to be well protected from plastic waste, he added.

The number of tourists to Phu Quoc has increased rapidly over the last two decades and there has been rapid growth of resorts and tourist service projects.

Official data shows that 340,000 people visited the island in June and 407,000 in July.

The government had targeted 3 million tourists to visit the island by 2020, but this was achieved last year.

Vietnam is the fourth-largest contributor to marine plastic pollution globally, according to 2015 study by the University of Georgia.

The country discharges around 18,000 tons of plastic waste every day, according to the Da Nang Center for Consultancy on Sustainable Development in central Vietnam. Cham and Be Islands in the region are two places in country banning the use of plastic.

In June, 41 embassies and international organizations in Vietnam signed a pledge to combat plastic pollution in the country.

"As international partners, we have the privilege to work in Vietnam, and have a collective responsibility to reduce our plastic footprint in this beautiful country," Canadian ambassador Ping Kitnikone said in a statement.

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