Viet Nam defines conservation of natural forests as protection of forests. Activities that directly affect forest ecosystems, as well as the growth and development of forest organisms, must comply with the provisions of law. From 1 January 2019, conversion of natural forests will be strictly prohibited, except in cases of nationally important projects, national defence projects, or other critical projects approved by the government.
In Viet Nam, conservation of biodiversity means: the protection of the abundance of natural ecosystems which are important, specific or representative; the protection of permanent or seasonal habitats of wild species, environmental landscapes and the unique beauty of nature; the rearing, planting and care of species on the list of endangered precious and rare species prioritised for protection; and the long-term preservation and storage of genetic specimens.
Viet Nam also has a number of policies, laws and regulations that support the conservation of biodiversity. Stakeholder participation in forestry development, environmental protection, biodiversity conservation and the provision of environmental services is required, in order to help eradicate hunger, eliminate poverty and enhance living standards in rural mountainous areas. Key ecosystems and biodiversity areas, threats to biodiversity, and priority in-situ and ex-situ conservation measures have been identified, and specific tasks assigned for the conservation of particular zones in the country, including the development of conservation corridors.
Forestry planning is required to be consistent with national strategy on biodiversity. Conservation of natural ecosystems which are important, specific or representative for an ecological region and the conservation of threatened species is prioritised. The illegal extraction of natural resources is prohibited, and socio-economic assessments are required to be carried out on socio-economic development strategies as well as strategies and plans for the utilisation of natural resources.
Environmental impact assessments are to be carried out in land parcels situated in wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, historical - cultural monuments, world heritage sites, biosphere reserves, scenic beauty areas - that have been ranked or projects that can cause negative environmental impacts. Environmental and social benefit and risk assessment is also required during the development of Provincial REDD+ Action Plans, including consideration of the impact of policies and measures on biodiversity.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, and provincial Departments of Natural Resources and the Environment within their respective localities, are responsible for special projects on biodiversity conservation throughout the country. Provincial Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development and Forest Management Boards (especially those for Special Use Forests), are responsible for the conservation of forests and wildlife within their respective localities and sites.
 The Law on Forest Protection and Development (2004), Articles 41-44. See also: The Forest Development Strategy for the period 2006 to 2020; the Law on Environmental Protection (2014).
 The Law on Forestry (2017, effective 1 January 2019), Articles 18-21.
 The Law on Biodiversity (2008), Articles 3(1), 8, 11, and 25. See also: The Forest Development Strategy for the period 2006 to 2020 (2006); the Biodiversity Law (2008) and the National Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 with a vision to 2030 (2013) and the accompanying National Master Plan on Biodiversity Conservation adopted according to Prime Minister’s Decision No. 45/2013/QD-TTg; the Law on Environmental Protection (2014); the Forestry Law (2017), Article 10.
 The Forest Development Strategy, 2006-2020.
 Prime Minister’s Decision No.1250/2013/QD-TTg; Prime Minister’s Decision No. 45/2014/QD-TTg.
 The Forestry Law (2017), Article 10.
 The Law on Biological Diversity (2008), Article 5.
 The Law on Environmental Protection (2014), Article 13; Decree No. 18/2015/ND-CP.
 The Law on Environmental Protection (2014), Article 18; MONRE Circular No. 27/2014/TT- BTNMT; MARD Circular No. 09/2014/TT-BNNPTNT.
 MARD Decision No. 5414/2015/QD-BNN-TCLN.
The principles, goal and specific objectives of Viet Nam’s National REDD+ Programme (2017) refer to the conservation and enhancement of natural forests. For example, one of is 2017-2020 objectives is to ‘improve the quality of natural forests and planted forests to increase carbon stock and environmental forest services, replicate effective models of forest plantation, sustainable management, protection and conservation of natural forests’.
A number of policies and measures in the National REDD+ Programme are aimed at the conservation of natural forests, and can be expected to support the conservation of these forests’ biodiversity and ecosystem services. For example:
- Continue to review and adjust the land use master plan and provincial land use plans to reach the target of 16.24 million hectares by 2020, including the promotion of environmental impact assessment;
- Promote sustainable and deforestation-free agriculture and aquaculture, such as piloting and replicating sustainable and climate resilient models for aquaculture, coffee, rubber and cassava;
- Pilot, evaluate and replicate sustainable models for natural forests enhancement, protection and conservation, including in natural production forests and special use forests, and forest rehabilitation and enrichment with native species; and
- Enhance the economic and financial environment for forests, including the economic valuation of forests and integration of forest values into national financial processes (e.g. GDP).
In addition, environmental and social co-benefits and risks of the National REDD+ Programme policies and measures were assessed in 2017, and co-benefit enhancement and risk mitigation measures suggested. This includes a number of benefits and risks related to the conservation of natural forests and biodiversity:
- Conservation of biodiversity may be improved through maintaining natural forests or restoring forest ecosystems, and through maintained or improved connectivity of forest habitats;
- There may be improved or maintained supply of forest goods and ecosystem services (natural capital);
- Resilience and adaptation to climate change and its associated effects may be increased;
- Ongoing loss of natural forests, high carbon value forests or forests that perform other important ecosystem services may occur;
- Investments, incentives and potential higher markets prices in agriculture could make crop production more effective or attractive, and contribute to deforestation over the long term or at scale;
- Forest land allocation and collaborative forest management approaches could lead to adverse effects on forest protection and legitimise unsustainable use of forests and forest lands;
- Non-timber forest product business models could result in over-exploitation and/or degradation and/or deforestation (e.g. spread of bamboo across other types of natural forest);
- There are risks of fire and pest/disease outbreaks in plantations;
- Lack of maintenance or abandonment of coastal forests plantations on lands that are classified as protection or special-use forest;
- Inundation in Melaleuca forests may lead to detrimental impacts on biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions;
- Green credits mechanisms could be used to support non-sustainable investments, with negative impacts on forests and/or greenhouse gas emissions;
- Risks of soil, water and biodiversity degradation associated with the use of agro-chemicals to improve yields.
Measures suggested during this assessment to enhance the co-benefits of REDD+ and reduce risks related to reversals include the following:
- Conservation and protection of natural forests should be prioritised in land use planning processes, applying strategic environmental assessment in land use and sectoral planning, and ensuring that decision-support tools for REDD+ incorporate biodiversity and ecosystem service values;
- Green financial mechanisms should include clear environmental safeguards such as criteria and procedures for screening proposed investments, conducting due diligence checks and monitoring;
- To reduce forest conversion to agriculture, a monitoring and traceability system should be developed, complemented by strengthening the monitoring and enforcement of land use plans in priority hotspots of commodity-driven deforestation;
- Inventories should be conducted on the baseline status of forests to be allocated, as well as studies to understand tenure arrangements, poverty, forest dependency/use and vulnerability. Participatory mapping and consultations on forest land allocation and co-management options should be carried out, including where possible promoting allocation to community groups;
- Access to credit and other livelihood support should be improved, such as on/off farm livelihood improvements allowing households to invest more resources in natural forest protection and restoration;
- Sustainable models identified for agriculture and aquaculture should integrate practices that minimise the use of agro-chemicals and water;
- Non-timber forest product business models and associated practices should promote natural forest protection and enhancement; screening procedures should be developed in order to eliminate inappropriate investments;
- Practical guidelines for afforestation/reforestation and plantation management at site-level should be developed, including site/species selection, plantation design, pest control, fire prevention, etc.;
- Sustainable forest management practices and certification for plantations should be promoted through access improvement to advisory services;
- Detailed studies and consideration of impacts on biodiversity and the wider ecosystem from interventions which affect water levels as well as impacts resulting from construction activities should be conducted and included in Melaleuca sites management plans.
The national guidelines for the development of Provincial REDD+ Action Plans also provide direction on environmental and social benefit and risk assessment of the REDD+ policies and measures set out in these plans. Assessments of environmental and social benefits and risks of REDD+ policies and measures in specific sub-national locations have also been carried out through the Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA) during the development of the FCPF Emission Reductions Program (ER Program) in the North-Central Coast Region of Viet Nam, and through the assessment of Environmental and Social Considerations for the Project for Sustainable Forest Management in the Northwest Watershed Area (SUSFORM-NOW) funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
In the case of the ER Program in the North-Central Coast Region of Viet Nam, the SESA identified a number of important potential environmental impacts, both positive and negative, including the risk of conversion of natural forest to plantation, and impacts on biodiversity and biodiversity connectivity. For example:
- Natural regeneration and enrichment planting may lead to impacts such as initial minor habitat damage and erosion, and over-exploitation of non-timber forest products, while leading to longer-term benefits due to habitat improvement for biodiversity.
- Afforestation/reforestation with acacia and mixed species and offsetting of infrastructure and other development could lead to possible loss of remnant natural forest to plantations.
- Institutional and capacity building activities should lead to improved forest governance, contributing to protection of biodiversity and improved landscape management.
- Environmental impacts could occur if activities chosen by communities and forest management entities are not supportive of forest or biodiversity conservation supportive.
The following design features have been proposed to mitigate environmental risks in the ER-P:
- Land use planning and design of program field activities: Plantation development activities under the ER Program will be primarily with smallholders rather than through large-scale plantations. Production forests allocated to households with standing natural forest will not be selected for such activities, nor will these take place in protected area sites or sites with high conservation value forests. Plantation establishment will follow sustainable forest management practices and should not replace natural forests, including through mapping of remaining forest areas, awareness, linking plantation development to certification, and tying benefit sharing to the protection of natural forests.
- Codes of practice for plantation development: The Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF) identifies the need for clear guidelines to support the development of plantations. These guidelines will prescribe environmental impact management measures in nine main areas: site selection, species selection; management regime, plantation establishment; plantation tending; integrated pest control; fire prevention and control; access and harvesting; and monitoring and evaluation.
- Independent monitoring: The ER Program will support a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation system which will include processes for qualitative and quantitative, bottom-up data collection from the commune for forest cover monitoring and reporting.
 NRAP 2017
 Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) Carbon Fund. Emission Reductions Program Document (ER-PD). Date of Submission: 5 January 2018
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Table showing natural forest area (ha) nationally in the three categories: total, protection, special use, for two or more periods
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