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US$2.9 million project helps protect coastal habitats in Mekong Delta

The Saigon Times

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HCMC – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on October 21 launched a US$2.9 million coastal habitat conservation project for the Mekong Delta region, which was announced during U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit to Vietnam in August.

The project will be jointly implemented by USAID, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Directorate of Fisheries of the Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

With a planned budget of up to US$2.9 million provided by USAID, this three-year project aims to protect key coastal habitats in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam to increase the sustainability of fisheries, enhance climate change adaptation and improve biodiversity conservation.

According to USAID, the Mekong Delta and its islands are home to 70% of Vietnam’s mangroves and 90% of its seagrass beds. Fed by the sediment and nutrients from the Mekong River, these habitats support Vietnam’s richest fishing grounds, but are also under growing threat.

The delta’s mangrove forests, which provide a nursery habitat for sea bass, snapper and other commercially important species, and protection for the coastal communities from storms, are declining due to the rising sea level.

The delta’s crucial fishery habitats are further threatened by environmental pressures including prolonged droughts, rising temperatures and aquaculture demand for groundwater and intensive near-shore fishing which has depleted fish stocks, causing cascading ecological damage.

By partnering with businesses, provincial governments, the management board of the Phu Quoc Marine Protected Area (MPA) of the Phu Quoc National Park and fishing communities, the project will work to mitigate threats to the 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 East and West Seas, Phu Quoc MPA, and three small island clusters in the West Sea – Hai Tac, Ba Lua and Nam Du.

The main components of the project include strengthening the management of the 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 the fish nursery habitat and coastal biodiversity.

It is expected that the project’s outcomes will contribute to addressing the systemic threats in the Mekong Delta, in support of ongoing measures being taken by the Government of Vietnam, such as the revised Fisheries Law, 2018 Resolution No. 36, Resolution No. 120 and 2019 Planning Law.

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