Community cleanup efforts and local government commitment underway to tackle the mounting plastic waste issue on Phu Quoc Island
The launch ceremony kicks off at the Phu Quoc Culture and Sport Center in Duong Dong town, hosted by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with collaborative support from the Phu Quoc District People’s Committee (DPC) and the Kien Giang Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD).
Phu Quoc is the largest island in the Southern offshore area of Vietnam. The island is rich in biodiversity and includes both a terrestrial National Park and a Marine Protected Area (MPA). The MPA includes two important areas: a coral reef zone and seagrass beds - a key spawning and nursery area for blue swimming crabs and other aquatic species.
The island has become a popular destination for local and foreign tourists alike. During the last decade, the Phu Quoc tourism sector has seen rapid growth of hotels, restaurants, and other tourism service facilities, like mushroom farms. In 2015, the annual number of tourists was almost nine times the island’s population, and the rate of tourism is projected to continue to grow. This rapid development, combined with waste management incapacity, continuously causes serious terrestrial and marine pollution and the associated damaging of coral reefs and seagrass beds, degrading public and private beaches, and consequently affecting the livelihood of local residents. One of the main causes of such pollution is plastic waste.
According to Phu Quoc DPC, currently, the average collected garbage volume is estimated at 120-150 tons per day (an increase from 50 tons per day in 2010). Around 87% of garbage is collected by the Public Work Management Unit, but not all waste is treated, and that which is maybe improperly treated. As a result, garbage, especially plastic waste, can be seen in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
Mr. Quang Trọng Thao, Vice Director of DARD Kien Giang said “Phu Quoc MPA is one of the most important MPAs in Vietnam. The booming development of tourism and investment is causing serious pressure on the marine ecosystems of Phu Quoc, including the destruction of species and habitats in the marine protected area, by both of seafoods, demand and waste discharged onto the beaches and into the sea.”
WWF has been working with Kien Giang DARD, the Phu Quoc MPA, as well as local communities for many years on Phu Quoc island, to support sustainable fisheries and community livelihood development, reduce plastic pollution in marine environments. The event calls on the voluntary support of members of the public, local businesses, organizations and government agencies to engage in an effort to clean up the island and symbolically demonstrate their commitment to tackling the plastic waste management issue.
Mr. Mai Van Huynh, Chairman of the Phu Quoc DPC said “Phu Quoc district is committed to responding to the "Anti-plastic waste" movement launched by the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. In addition to calling for investment in waste treatment factories with advanced technology, the DPC will implement programs to minimize plastic waste starting by replacing all plastic water bottles with glasses and refillable bottles during all meetings of the DPC and District Party Committee offices. The District People's Committee will also launch the implementation of Green Day for the Pearl Island once a month, to mobilize the collection of garbage throughout the whole island. I hope all organisations and individuals in the district will enthusiastically respond to the "Anti-plastic waste" movement, proceed to cut out single-use plastics in all operations and activities, and inspire the surrounding community.”
“Worldwide, 80% of ocean plastic comes from land activities due to mismanagement of waste generated from human consumption and production. The management of waste on and around Phu Quoc is far more important due to its proximity to the ocean. To protect Phu Quoc and its marine ecosystems from plastic pollution, it needs the joint effort from the local government, businesses, communities, tourists and all individuals who live, work and love Phu Quoc”, expressed Ms. Thuy, Program Coordinator of the Oceans Program, WWF-Vietnam.
The Plastic Waste Reduction Movement and Regeneration of Aquatic Resources event at Duong Dong town includes cleanup activities in the community and on the beach, releasing blue swimming crabs into the marine protected area, an exhibition to demonstrate the impacts of plastic waste on the environment, a specially created art sculpture of a Dugong (a threatened marine mammal species that feeds off of coastal seagrass beds) filled with plastic waste collected from the beach, and a symbolic handover ceremony of waste bins to the local community; bolstered by the commitment of Mr. Huynh Quang Hung, Vice Chairman and on behalf of Phu Quoc DPC on the reduction of plastic waste in DPC and Communist Party Office operations. The event extends to a series of cleanups in Duong Dong town the morning of June 8th- right after the launch ceremony, a beach cleanup in Da Chong village (Bai Thom commune) the same afternoon, and a beach cleanup in Bai Bon village (Ham Ninh commune) the following morning.
These combined efforts signify the seriousness to which the local government agencies and communities view the plastic waste management issue on the island and the desire for a long- term solution to ensure a sustainable method and lasting impact on the island, ensuring a future for both humans and nature,where Phu Quoc can truly become the real pearl island and dreamy destination for all.