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Remarks by Mr Kamal Malhotra, United Nations Resident Coordinator, Vietnam and UNDP Resident Representative, Vietnam (Delivered by Ms. Akiko Fujii, UNDP Country Director ad interim) at the Celebration of 2017 World Wetlands Day and Spring Tree Planting

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Date: February 5, 2017
Venue: Thai Thuy District, Thai Binh Province, Vietnam

Excellency Mr. Tran Hong Ha, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment,
Mr. Vo Tuan Nhan, Vice Minister, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment,

Mr Tran Hong Ha, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment;
Mr Pham Van Sinh, Secretary of Thai Binh Provincial Partry Committee;
Mr Nguyen Hong Dien, Chairman of Thai Binh Provincial People's Committee.

Esteemed Government participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to participate in today’s celebration of the 2017 World Wetlands Day on “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction” and the Spring Tree Planting event in Thai Thuy District, Thai Binh Province. I am delivering these remarks on behalf of the UNDP Resident Representative in Vietnam, Mr. Kamal Malhotra. It is unfortunate that Mr. Malhotra is not able to be here due to a prior commitment.
However, he sends his best wishes for the event and he will participate in the New Year Meeting with International Partners at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment on 6 February. He has asked me to represent him in the event today as UNDP Country Director ad interim.

As we know, wetlands play a crucial role in the economic development of a country and support local livelihoods, especially through agriculture and aquaculture. Along the coast, wetlands are also a natural buffer against the impact of typhoons and storm surges, protecting people and development investments.

At the same time, natural wetlands in Viet Nam remain under pressure; they are not yet designated as Protected Areas, continue to be affected by economic development, while the awareness, institutional arrangements and capacity for wetland management needs further strengthening.

Viet Nam is making progress in strengthening wetland conservation. We can see that the need to balance and harmonize economic growth and development with environmental protection is increasingly being recognized, and Viet Nam’s support of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is an opportunity both to emphasize the sustainable basis of the economy and bring positive effects on the livelihoods and quality of life of all Vietnamese, as well as to benefit the country’s wetlands.

Considering their important role, and the threats to which wetlands still are subject, UNDP is proud to support the Government of Viet Nam in strengthening wetland conservation and to ensure their sustainable development in support of local livelihoods. Together with MONRE, ISPONRE and BCA/VEA we support national authorities and 2 pilot provinces – Thai Binh and Thua Thien Hue – in establishing innovative Wetland Conservation Areas and ensuring their effective management. We are working to revise relevant national and provincial legislation in order to mainstream wetland conservation into socio-economic development planning, and to formulate a National Wetlands Action Plan.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
In Thai Thuy today we can see firsthand, an example of seemingly conflicting interests between industrial development and the conservation of wetland biodiversity. However, we can also see an opportunity to mainstream mangrove wetland protection into industrial development. Thai Thuy’s mangroves help to reduce the impacts of extreme weather events which are increasingly occurring due to climate change. They offer protection of the sea dikes, aquaculture ponds and agricultural lands, and reduce costs for post-disaster relief and infrastructure restoration. Supporting this natural solution to disaster risk reduction is also cost-effective for any planned industry in Viet Nam’s coastal zone.

Therefore, UNDP remains strongly committed to further supporting the integrated conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and biodiversity. We also seek to help the country realize a more sustainable and inclusive economy by improving the livelihoods and quality of life of all of Vietnam’s citizens, as well as by safeguarding Viet Nam’s communities from the impacts of environmental degradation from climate change, both today and for future generations.

Thank you – Xin cam on!