WHAT I LEARNT FROM VISITING HA LONG BAY & AND WHY TRAVELLING IS IMPORTANT IN A CONSCIOUS LIFESTYLE
I first wrote this piece a year ago, just after I got back from visiting South East Asia. At the time, Project 3 P was only an idea and I wasn’t sure how this post would fit in with my blog. But as I am now more open to posting any thoughts and stories about sustainability and because I am heading off to Thailand again in a weeks time, I thought this would be the perfect time to post it.
It’s a little more real than the issues I face living in the ‘burbs, such as saying no to a plastic bag and finding access to bulk food stores. When I was told about this issue by my tour guide, it really opened up my eyes to the complexity of sustainability issues.
Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in Vietnam’s northeast. It is known for its turquoise waters, limestone islands and traditional junk boat tours and is recognised for its natural scenery, geomorphology, landform features and cultural heritage. This protected area is strictly managed under a number of provincial and national laws including tourism, fishing, biodiversity, environmental and cultural regulations and has a number of management plans controlling tourist boats, mud dredging, land filling, illegal fishing and floating houses.
However, Ha Long Bay faces a number of social issues and it is said, that although these programs aim to incorporate various stakeholders, including the local community, traditional fishing villages have actually been displaced in order to establish this World Heritage Site. These village communities live together in floating houses and are sustained through fishing and marine aquaculture. But due to the degradation of fish and marine stocks in Ha Long Bay (most likely not the local people’s doing), the provincial government are in the process of relocating these local villages to the mainland.
It is believed that if these communities are not moved, there will be greater environmental pressure placed upon Ha Long Bay. However, traditional methods of fishing have been passed through many generations and is all these people have known. Those who have already been removed still rely on trading and the selling of goods as a means of support. Small rowing boats, illegally move through Ha Long Bay from the mainland, trading with each other and selling commercial foods to tourist boats in order to sustain their livelihoods.
The problem here is that as the demand for seafood increases, we forget that we’re not only impacting the marine food chain, but also the local communities that depend on them. That although a management plan may be doing right by the environment, they may not incorporate the people who have sustained these natural environments for thousands of years.
I think it’s important to travel, even if that means we’re offsetting along the way. Learning about and experiencing complex environmental issues is a must in living a conscious lifestyle. It is important to be aware of what is happening around us, even if we have to leave our zero waste pantries and the comfort of our organic bed sheets behind.
What has been the most eye-opening thing you’ve learn from travelling overseas or to a new location?