Written by Administrator
Tuesday, 21 December 2010 06:12
AsiaViews, Edition: 32/VII/November2010
NAGOYA--Digging holes in a sodden Vietnamese mangrove forest where temperatures can reach close to 40 degrees may not be everybody's idea of the ideal holiday, but for the past eight years Japanese university students have been spending their summers doing just that in a district near Ho Chi Minh City.
"I'm sure the students are asking themselves how they ended up doing such hard labor," said a laughing Kiyoshi Fujimoto, a professor of environmental geography at Nanzan University, and head of Hoi Nam Du, the Nagoya-based environmental NGO that dispatches the young people to Vietnam.
Since 2002, Hoi Nam Du has been sending students from Nagoya's Nanzan University and other schools to Can Gio district to help restore mangroves that were wiped out during the Vietnam War.
Defoliants used during the conflict killed off much of the vegetation in Vietnam's southern delta region. As well as serving as a cradle for tropical coastal ecosystems, mangroves serve a crucial role in preventing coastal erosion by storms and tsunami.
The Can Gio district, which was home to a wide diversity of mangrove species, was designated a Biosphere Reserve by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2001.
Working in collaboration with local students, Hoi Nam Du has restored and managed mangroves covering an area of 50 hectares within Can Gio.
With completion of planting projects in 2006, the group has switched its emphasis to maintenance of the newly-planted mangroves collectively called the "Cultural exchange forest for young Japanese and Vietnamese."
This August, a team of 34 Hoi Nam Du members, Nanzan students and others traveled to Can Gio to tend to the mangroves, removing undergrowth and checking on the aquatic plants' growth.
The group also began an experimental planting of mangroves in an abandoned salt works in the same district.
Fujimoto, an expert on mangrove environments across the world, has been surveying the Can Gio district since the late 1990s. After working as an adviser to Hoi Nam Du for a while, he took helm as the group's second leader, and has been instructing members and students on planting techniques.
Much of the tropical aquatic vegetation in Can Gio has been restored through the joint efforts of NGOs such as Hoi Nam Du and the Vietnamese and Ho Chi Minh municipal governments, with the support of Japanese official development assistance. But much still needs to be done, Fujimoto said.
"Reviving forests takes centuries. Until the mangroves become self sustaining, it is important to maintain them," Fujimoto said.
Hoi Nam Du's activities are dependent upon donations. Fujimoto said the group is seeking donors who "will continue to contribute for a long time however small the amount."
By: Tomoyuki Izawa
The Asahi Shimbun 03 November 2010
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 December 2010 06:12 )