United Nations call for action on World Environment Day in Viet Nam


HO CHI MINH CITY — This year's World Environment Day theme — "A Time to Act" — has never been more apt. As Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, noted in his World Environment Day speech, "never in the history of mankind have we done so much, in so little time, to destroy the wonderful ecosystem that sustains us. The repercussions of our destructive action will be felt for generations to come. It may take us another millennium to put things right."

Over the past decade, Viet Nam has made significant progress in protecting the environment by preparing a national environmental strategy, creating a ministry responsible for the environment, and passing a national law on environmental protection. However, the situation in Viet Nam remains serious.

From 1985 to 1995, 1.2 million hectares of forest was cleared as a result of expanding agriculture, commercial logging, and firewood collection. This in turn has caused increased soil erosion, flooding and species loss. From 1985 to 1994, more than 220,000 hectares of coastal wetlands was cleared for aquaculture development. Coupled with related developments, this has destroyed breeding grounds for many marine species and natural coastal defences against typhoons and storm surges.

In the last ten years, the population in Viet Nam's cities has grown by five and a half million people. Without adequate urban infrastructure, this growth has brought increases in water pollution, solid wastes, and air pollution. The list of threats in Viet Nam is long. Addressing these new challenges now is critical for future generations.

To promote awareness about and celebrate World Environment Day, several UN projects are sponsoring activities. To address environmental issues in investment planning, UNDP will begin a two month campaign targeting the need for cleaner production in Ha Noi, sustainable use of natural resources in Lam Dong province, and better urban planning in Quang Ninh province. Together with the Department of Science, Technology and Environment, the UNDP project on environmental management will hold a photo exhibition on World Environment Day in Ho Chi Minh City.

"As we come upon the dawn of a new millennium, let us be a generation of vision and courage. It's time to act!" said Edouard Wattez, Resident Coordinator for the United Nations in Viet Nam, in his World Environment Day speech.