Co To is an island located 80 km off Vietnam in the Gulf Of Tonkin. On July 12, 2012, after a 2-hour boat ride from Cai Rong, we arrived at the beautiful island of Co To. When we visited two years ago, our first impression was of a mound of rubbish. Now, however, the rubbish is mostly gone.
To raise awareness of the links between coastal ecosystem protection and local livelihood, Green Viet Nam Journey, a government initiative that takes journalists around the country to see environmental problems at first hand, and IUCN organized a trip to Co To Island, Xuan Thuy National Park, and Ha Long City. The trip was funded by Mangroves for the Future, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the U.N. Democracy Fund.
On the island, Green Viet Nam Journey organized a photo exhibition about the Cu Lao Cham Marine Protected Area “Say No To Plastic Bags” campaign. During the exhibition, we were very happy to hear Nguyen Duc Thanh, Party Secretary and Chairman of Co To Island, say that by 2014, plastic bags will be banned on Co To.
At the same time, Green Viet Nam Journey organized a beach clean-up with coast guards and students from the universities of Hanoi and Hai Phong. They set up a “Moving Green Corner” on the beach and at a market to show people how to make paper bags and use degradable plastic bags instead of normal plastic bags. The degradable plastic bags are “Oxium” products that will degrade in two years. Green Viet Nam Journey also organized a drawing competition for secondary school students on marine turtle conservation and swapped degradable for non-degradable plastic bags. IUCN organized a marine turtle conservation training course for coast guards, local people, and journalists. Two musical performances and film shows on marine turtles attracted a lot of attention.
Green Viet Nam Journey is working hard to convey environmental messages and change behavior at each location it visits. We hope that local people will realize how important a clean environment is to their health and happiness. However, two days after arrival on Co To, all of the posters we hung up were stolen. These held messages that we wanted people to read and, hopefully, respond to. We don’t know why the posters were stolen. And this makes us wonder about whether the Party Secretary will be able to keep his commitment to a plastic bag-free Co To.
Ms. Nguyen Thuy Anh - Communication and Outreach Officer - IUCN Viet Nam