Wednesday November 20, 2019
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Vietnam Does Its Part In Cleaning the Environment, Cleans Plastic

With the waste already blanketing the streets and seas, and with the cost of alternatives still pricey, plastic can seem like a mountain of a problem.

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A woman removes plastic waste stuck in tree branches near the beach in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam. VOA

For many Vietnamese people, it is a ritual as circadian as the sunrise: On the way to work, they pull over their motorbikes to grab an iced coffee from a street vendor, complete with a plastic cup, plastic lid, plastic straw, and plastic case to hang from the bikes as they drive.

The coffee, with four separate pieces of plastic for a single drink, exemplifies how this packaging has became such a common and wasteful scourge on Vietnam’s environment. But some citizens have become alarmed by the trend and begun fighting back against the pollution.

More Vietnamese than ever are looking for alternatives to plastic, from metal bottles to cloth tote bags, just as many communities around the world are starting to believe they have relied for too long on cheap and versatile — but ecologically disastrous — plastic. Rwanda was remarkably efficient at banning plastic bags, while Durham, North Carolina has a volunteer program to distribute reusable takeout containers, and an Amsterdam grocer introduced an aisle of products with no plastic.

 

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A plastic bottle washed up by the sea . (VOA)

 

What makes Vietnam special, to the chagrin of environmentalists, is that it ranks among the top five countries in the world that send plastic trash into the ocean, according to the Ocean Conservancy. To have become a top polluter is staggering for the Southeast Asian nation, especially when there are dozens of countries with much larger economies but far less plastic waste.

“Everyone, every country should be responsible, it doesn’t matter the size,” said Tran An, a volunteer at Precious Plastic Saigon. “In Vietnam we should do what we can to solve the plastic problem.”

Her green advocacy group has taught Vietnamese how to make their own straws out of bamboo, as well as how to distinguish between different kinds of plastic to facilitate recycling.

Locals are getting creative with the ways they are cutting plastic out of their daily diets. It seems each week another restaurant in Vietnam is switching to paper straws, while supermarkets have started giving shoppers cardboard boxes in which to take home their groceries, similar to Costco in the United States.

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A man collects plastic and other recyclable material from the shores. (VOA)

Plastic water bottles are a popular target. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has swapped them out in favor of metal bottles at meetings. One business chamber is encouraging members to replace them at the office, providing water coolers for employees instead. A coalition of foreign consulates in Ho Chi Minh City signed a pledge this year to do the same. And at conferences, one hotel puts out glasses that guests can refill from dispensers.

“One of my favorite examples is that, you know, the youngsters in Vietnam, we are so gaga over bubble tea. And all that is plastic,” An said. “But now if you go to those shops you will see that they started getting the carriers made by canvas, or something else instead of a plastic carrier.”

The carriers are similar to those used by motorbike drivers to transport their iced coffee. Straws and carriers are small change, though, compared to the macroeconomic change needed to cut down on plastic, which will take up more space in the ocean than do fish, if nothing is done, by 2050, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

The “industries responsible for the major plastic wastes must be targeted with specific industry agreements and producer liability arrangements, with requirements for handling, collection and reuse of waste and broken plastic equipment,” Nina Jensen, CEO of the environmental group REV Ocean, wrote in a blog post.

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An environmentalist checks the quality of the water near dead fishes along the Ngoc Khanh lake in Hanoi . VOA

Vu Thinh, who works at a trading company in Ho Chi Minh City, thinks the growing interest in eco-friendly consumption could be good for business.

“One of my special products is to make a plastic bag, so I think this is interesting, this topic, because in the next year we will produce this product,” he said.

His bags would be made of potato starch and other natural ingredients that can decompose within two years, unlike plastic, one of the least biodegradable materials.

But this would cost more than single-use plastic bags, demonstrating the difficulty of finding a new business model for companies that depend on plastic.

“Of course we want to export to Europe or America because this is more expensive,” Thinh said. “You know in Vietnam now [we] have some companies produce that product but it is not good, the market is not good, the price is high. We will research the market more.”

Also Read: Sea Turtles Suffer Majorly Due To Plastic Traps

With the waste already blanketing the streets and seas, and with the cost of alternatives still pricey, plastic can seem like a mountain of a problem. But An said she has reason to be optimistic because the next generation is more idealistic.

Older Vietnamese think, “why go an extra step for something if it won’t make a difference?” she said. “But for the youngsters I think they feel that one action counts anyway.” (VOA)

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UN Wildfire Conference To Focus On Ecological Connectivity

The theme of the UN wildlife conference will be 'Migratory species connect the planet and together we welcome them home'

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UN wildfire conference will focus on ecological connectivity. Pixabay

The theme of a major UN wildlife conference dedicated to migratory species in India early next year will be ‘Migratory species connect the planet and together we welcome them home’, it was announced in Bonn on Tuesday.

Under this theme, governments, scientists, conservation groups and wildlife experts will gather at the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS COP13) due to take place in Gandhinagar in Gujarat from February 15 to 22.

The theme was announced by CMS Acting Executive Secretary Amy Fraenkel and Inspector General of Forest at the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Soumitra Dasgupta during COP13 preparatory meetings currently underway in Bonn.

Throughout their life cycles and migration ranges, migratory animals depend on a functioning network of connected habitats across countries and continents to breed, feed and rest.

The COP13 theme highlights the importance of ecological connectivity to better protect migratory wildlife and their habitats.

Ecological connectivity is the unimpeded movement of species and the flow of natural processes that sustain life on earth.

The loss and fragmentation of habitat are the key threats to migratory animals across the world. They are also considered to be the greatest threats to biodiversity worldwide with climate change exacerbating these effects.

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This UN conference will focus on migratory species. Pixabay

In a world that faces a continuous decline in biodiversity with migratory animals being a key component, ecological connectivity is essential to halt and reverse this trend.

The CMS has called for the concept of connectivity to be integrated into the new Global Biodiversity Framework, which will be adopted at the end of next year in China.

Fraenkel said: “The CMS COP13 is expected to be a milestone for future conservation policy. To save nature in an increasingly fragmented world, the core concept of connectivity needs to be incorporated in global conservation efforts and should be embedded in the new deal for nature.”

Dasgupta said the CMS COP13 would be an important opportunity for India to showcase and demonstrate its leading work and commitment to global wildlife conservation.

“We look forward to welcoming the international delegates to India and to working with them to make the planet a more hospitable place for both migratory animals and people.”

The human footprint has left lasting marks on the planet. Roads, railways, fences and urbanization are increasingly cutting through landscapes and dividing nature.

They interrupt the web of life and prevent migratory animals from completing their essential journeys.

Nevertheless, the world is expected to invest around $90 tn in infrastructure in the next 15 years alone, resulting in more new roads and railways. These obstacles to migration interrupt the natural life cycle of migratory wildlife and pose a lethal danger.

The UN global assessment on biodiversity and ecosystem services, released by IPBES in May, documented the dramatic decline of biodiversity in all parts of the world.

Without increased action, over 1 million species could face extinction in our lifetimes.

As environmental changes grow, countries around the world need to save and restore natural connections across land and water. These connections enhance resilience to environmental changes such as climate change and support nature and people.

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The UN convention is the only convention that conserves migratory species and their habitats across national boundaries. Pixabay

The CMS brings countries together to shape transboundary policies that ensure the long-term survival of migratory animals across countries and continents.

It is the only convention that conserves migratory species and their habitats across national boundaries.

To be successful, large-scale conservation must consider entire migration systems and the functioning of the migration process itself. The geographic scope goes beyond protected areas or sites subject to other conservation measures, to include an ecological network of areas important for the survival of species.

Preserving large landscapes and seascapes affects many people and requires international collaboration. There is a rapidly growing community of organizations working on large-scale conservation initiatives in landscapes and seascapes built on connectivity.

They connect people and nature across cultures, jurisdictions, and geography.

Also Read- Number of Indians Studying in the U.S. Surpassed 2 Lakh

The Convention on Migratory Species is working closely with governments, international organizations, conservation groups, and wildlife experts to ensure that connectivity. Conservation will be a central part of future global conservation policy and that the unimpeded movement of species and the flow of natural processes will continue to sustain life on earth for generations to come. (IANS)