A natural wetland is an area of marsh, peatland, or permanent or temporary water, including marine areas with a depth of not more than 6 meters at low tide. Wetlands are one of the most productive ecosystems on earth, referred to as the "kidneys of the landscape" because of the function they perform in hydrological and chemical cycles. They are called “bio-supermarkets” because of the rich food source and rich biodiversity they provide. Because of the extremely important values and roles of wetlands for people, in 2021, the theme of " Wetlands and Water" was selected by the Ramsar Convention Secretariat. Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) is an economic tool to realize the principle of "users, benefiting from resources and environment must pay". In Việt Nam, PES is widely known in the forestry sector with a payment mechanism for forest environmental services that has been institutionalized in the forestry legislation and provides proven benefits. However, besides forest ecosystems, there are many other types of ecosystems that have values and potentials to apply PES such as wetlands, seas... Therefore, the Law on Environmental Protection (LEP) in 2020 has issued regulations to apply PES to other important ecosystems, including wetlands. This paper proposes a natural PES mechanism for wetlands in order to provide a basis for the development of guidelines for the implementation of detailed regulations on wetlands PES in Việt Nam.
Regulations on PES for wetland ecosystems and requirements need detailed guidance
Natural wetlands are permanent or temporary wetlands, peatlands, or bodies of water, including waters with a depth of not more than 6 meters at low tide. According to Article 138 of the LEP in 2020: “Natural PES is mechanism in which organizations and individuals who use natural ecosystem services will pay money to organizations and individuals who provide environmental and landscape values thanks to natural ecosystems to protect, maintain and develop the natural ecosystem”. Types of ecosystem services applied to wetlands are specified in the Law, including “wetland ecosystem services for tourism, entertainment, and aquaculture business purposes; carbon sequestration and storage services”. In addition, to ensure that there is no overlap in the application of PES with the law on forestry, at point a, clause 2, Article 138, it is agreed that "forest environmental services of forest ecosystems in accordance with the law on forestry". Therefore, in order for the regulation on natural PES for wetlands to be applied, it must ensure that it does not overlap with the current regulations of the law on forestry and at the same time satisfy 4 natural PES principles, including: (i) organizations and individuals using one or several natural ecosystem services must pay for natural ecosystem services; (ii) payment for natural ecosystem services is made in the form of direct payment or indirect payment through trustfund; (iii) natural PES money is accounted into the cost of products and services of the user of the natural ecosystem service, which must cover the costs of protecting, maintaining and developing the natural ecosystem; (iv) organizations and individuals providing natural ecosystem services must use money obtained from the natural PES to protect, maintain and develop the natural ecosystem.
Identify the relationship among stakeholders and the issues raised to guide the implementation of the natural PES policy for wetlands
Based on the results of reviewing the current regulations in the law on environmental protection, after consulting experts and scientists on related issues, the study establishes a mind map showing the relationship among stakeholders in the application of natural PES to wetlands are presented in Figure 1.
Issues that need to be clarified in order to put the regulation on natural PES for wetlands into practice include: (i) clearly defining the application area; (ii) those who provide and are paid for ecosystem services; (iii) users and payers for ecosystem services; (iv) form of PES; (v) PES rate; (vi) use and manage PES; (vii) exemption or reduction of PES; (viii) other regulations related to the rights and obligations of the parties, PES exemption and reduction, inspection and supervision of implementation and handling of violations.
Proposing detailed regulations for wetland ecosystem services in the LEP2020
Firstly, the area applying PES wetland for the purposes of tourism, recreation and aquaculture is an important wetland and associated water area in the buffer zone of the wetland conservation area which offers business services in tourism, recreation, aquaculture, and carbon sequestration and storage services according to the Law on Biodiversity. To avoid overlap with the forestry legislation, the study proposes that in the case of forested wetlands, payment for the forest area is applied in accordance with the provisions of the forestry law. In addition, in the case of marine protected areas or aquatic resource protection zones in wetlands area to ensure consistency, the application of PES shall comply with the regulations on wetland PES.
Secondly, the individuals and organizations that provide and are paid for wetland ecosystem services are: (a) Conservation Area Management Boards such as Wetland Reserve Management Boards or National Parks...; (b) Organizations and individuals assigned to manage, protect, maintain and develop the natural ecosystem of the wetland. Where there is forest in the wetland area, the payment for the forest area shall be applied in accordance with the provisions of the law on forestry; (c) Organizations and individuals assigned to manage, protect, maintain and develop wetland ecosystems that provide carbon sequestration and storage services.
Thirdly, users and payers for wetland ecosystem services: (a) Organizations and individuals engaged in tourism and entertainment business activities, including: travel services, tourist transport, travel accommodation, food service, shopping, sports, yachting, swimming, diving, entertainment, health care, sightseeing, advertising and other related services serving tourists in the area covered with PES wetlands; (b) Organizations and individuals that have aquaculture activities located in the area where PES is applied for wetlands; (c) for organizations and individuals that have production and business activities with greenhouse gas emissions, they must use carbon sequestration and storage services of the wetland ecosystem to reduce emissions. Greenhouse gas is determined in accordance with the law on greenhouse gas reduction and ozone layer protection.
Fourthly, the form of PES in wetland: (i) Organizations and individuals engaged in tourism and entertainment business; Aquaculture activities located in the area of wetland PES application must pay directly to the providers through a contract agreed between the two parties, unless the wetland ecosystem has not been assigned by a competent state agency; (ii) Organizations and individuals engaged in activities causing greenhouse gas emissions shall pay to organizations and individuals providing carbon sequestration and storage services through an entrustment contract through the Vietnam Environment Protection Fund.
Fifthly, the rate of payment for wetland PES is determined on the basis of a voluntary agreement between the provider and the user of the wetland ecosystem service in accordance with the actual conditions and must ensure: (i) At least: equal to 1% of the total revenue made in the period for tourism and entertainment activities in areas where PES is applied in wetlands. (ii) At least equal to 5% of the lease value of water surface, sea surface or 1% of revenue in the period for aquaculture activities in areas where PES is applied; (iii) The level of payment for carbon sequestration and storage services of the Wetland Ecosystem is applied after conducting assessment, testing and proposing to apply from January 1st, 2027.
Sixthly, in order to ensure the PES principle stated in the LEP2020, the use and management of Wetland PES: (i) Wetland ecosystem service providers have the right to decide on the use of the money obtained from wetland ecosystem services after fulfilling financial obligations to the State in accordance with Law; (ii) If the provider of services for the wetland ecosystem is an organization, the money obtained from PES will be spent on the following activities: Paying the contracted party to protect and develop the wetland ecosystem; administrative expenses for the maintenance, conservation and development of wetland ecosystems.
Seventhly, to ensure fairness, it is necessary to determine who is exempt from paying PES for wetlands. These subjects include: households and individuals in areas with difficult economic conditions, poor households, and near-poor households as confirmed by local authorities; organizations and individuals whose production and business activities are affected by natural disasters, fires, earthquakes, storms, floods, flash floods, cyclones, tsunamis, landslides, epidemics causing direct damage to capital and assets leads to incapacity or cessation of production and business activities and is not required to buy property insurance as prescribed by law; individuals engaged in production and business activities lose their civil act capacity, die or are declared dead, missing, no longer have any property to pay, or their guardians or heirs are unable to pay debts on their behalf; the organization of production and business activities has a decision on dissolution or bankruptcy issued by a competent authority in accordance with law, and has no capital and assets to pay debts to the provider.
Eighthly, the rights and obligations of the wetland ecosystem service provider: (i) The wetland ecosystem service provider has the right to request the wetland ecosystem service user to pay for using the wetland ecosystem service according to regulations; (ii) To be responsible for managing and using PES money in accordance with the purposes and provisions of the law; (iii) to have obligation to maintain the area, protect the quality of wetland ecosystem services provided in accordance with the law and signed contracts; (iv) To exercise other rights and obligations as prescribed by law.
Ninth, the rights and obligations of the wetland ecosystem service user: (i) To be informed of the status of implementation and results of the maintenance, protection and development of the wetland ecosystem within the area where the service is provided; informed of the area, quality and status of the ecosystem assessed by the wetland ecosystem service provider; (ii) To be notified by the Environmental Protection Fund of the results of entrustment payment for wetland ecosystem services to the wetland ecosystem service provider; (iii) Participating in the process of planning, implementing, inspecting, monitoring and accepting the results of maintenance, protection and development of wetland ecosystems within the area where wetland ecosystem services are provided; (iv) Request the competent state agency to consider the adjustment of natural PES money in case the ecosystem service provider fails to ensure the correct area or degrades the quality and the state of the ecosystem for which the user has paid the corresponding amount; (v) Sign a contract, declare the amount of wetland ecosystem services to pay for entrustment to the Environmental Protection Fund; (vi) Pay for wetland ecosystem services sufficiently and on time according to the contract to the providing organization or individual directly or indirectly to the Environmental Protection Fund; (vii) Participate in the protection of wetland ecosystems within the area where wetland ecosystem services are provided.
Tenth, the providing organizations and individuals that are paid for natural ecosystem services are obliged to disclose on: a natural PES project, enclosed with a map describing the boundaries, landmarks, and area of providing natural ecosystem services; list of organizations and individuals using and paying for natural ecosystem services; list of subjects to be paid, amount to be paid, quarterly and annual payment plan. In addition, for the implementation of PES for wetland ecosystems in accordance with legal regulations, ensuring efficiency and fairness, it is necessary to develop a mechanism to inspect and supervise the management and use of ecosystem service fees. The agency responsible for inspection and supervision should be decentralized according to the management responsibility assigned to each wetland ecosystem.
Analysis of suitability and impact of PES application on wetlands in Vietnam
According to data from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), there are currently about 57 countries implementing PES policies. This regulation is consistent with Resolution No. 24-NQ/TW of the Central Committee of the Communist Party on proactively responding to climate change, strengthening natural resource management and environmental protection. In the direction of the Government at the National Strategy on Biodiversity to 2020, with a vision to 2030, has given the task of "piloting a policy of payment for environmental services applied to marine and wetland ecosystems"; Decree No. 66/2019/ND-CP on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Wetlands sets forth the requirement "Develop guidelines on wetland PES and benefit-sharing options in important wetland sites in order to ensure a fair and reasonable benefit-sharing mechanism in terms of rights and obligations among stakeholders in the use of wetland ecosystem services". In fact, the application of the policy of payment for forest environmental services has been implemented effectively and has received the approval of the society, creating financial resources outside Stage budget for forest development. Việt Nam currently has about 12 million hectares of wetlands, diverse in types and distributed in all ecological regions of the country, with about 26 different types of wetlands. The services that wetland ecosystems provide to people are very large, including both direct and indirect.
Implementing PES on wetlands helps ensure fairness, creates financial resources outside Stage budget for renovating, restoring and developing important ecosystems and natural landscapes, so the application is necessary, the level of revenue, the payment method will be applied in accordance with the characteristics and socio-economic conditions of each locality, so it will be flexible and will not have a great impact on the subjects who have to make the payment. Therefore, the institutionalization of regulations on PES is necessary and in line with current orientations and regulations, make use of the potential of other ecosystems for national economic development. The application of this regulation in the short term will have an impact on the redistribution of a part of the revenue to the users who have to pay for the wetland ecosystem services, but in the long term, it will create double benefits because it contributes to maintaining the sustainable economic activity for organizations and individuals who use and pay PES and at the same time contribute to the maintenance and development of wetland ecosystems.
Dr. Lại Văn Mạnh; Dr. Mai Thế Toản; BSc. Đỗ Thị Thanh Ngà
Institute of Strategy, Policy on Natural Resources and Environment
(Source: Vietnam Environment Administration Magazine, English Edition II - 2021)
5. Thomson, Kerle, Waylen and Martin-Ortega, 2014, Water-Based Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) Schemes in Scotland.
6. Edward B Barbier, Mike Acreman và Duncan Knowler, 1997, Economic valuation of wetlands: a guide for policy makers and planners.