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Local tourism gets a boost with 'world biosphere' recognition
Friday, 05.29.2009, 07:47am (GMT)

Every day, hundreds of visitors descend upon the lush green Cham Islands off the central coast of Hoi An Town.
With pristine white-sand beaches and crystal-clear water, the area is renowned for both its beauty and vast biodiversity.
Now, locals of the eight-island cluster can boast one more glowing attribute of the area  UNESCO recognition of the islands as a global biosphere reserve.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) made the announcement Tuesday that the Cham Islands, together with Vietnam's southernmost Ca Mau Cape, would receive the special designation.
The issue was discussed by UNESCO's International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Program on South Korea's Jeju Island prior to the announcement.
Located 15 kilometers off the central Cua Dai coast, the Cham Islands, which are governed by Hoi An, serve as a protective barrier for the ancient town.
A beach in the Cham Islands off the coast of central Hoi An Town in Quang Nam Province. The newly recognized global biosphere reserve attracts thousands of tourists every year thanks to its clean beaches and lush forests.
Lecturer Hans Dilev of the Danish Aarhus University said the Cham Islands are one of the few places in Vietnam that still possess a large area of vegetation and a wide range of rare and endangered animals.
The islands are located near the Bach Ma-Hai Van-Son Tra granite mountain range, formed around 230 million years ago. In 2004, Vietnam named the island area a national “sea reserve one of just two island reserves in the country at the time. The other was the Mun Islet reserve in Khanh Hoa Province.
Spanning more than 5,000 hectares, the reserve includes 165 hectares of coral reefs and 500 hectares of underwater plant life. They are also home to 947 aquatic species.
The vast biological diversity can also be seen in the Cham Island mountains, which stretch over 1,550 hectares. Within the immense island forests are many rare animal species, including the endangered long-tailed monkey and swallow. And of the hundreds of flora species in the area, more than 60 percent are used by locals.
Venkat Reddy, an Indian tourist who visited the islands last week, said that the Cham Islands are exceptionally clean and beautiful.
Reddy told Thanh Nien that the islands deserve to be protected and that they have his vote for “world biosphere reserve” recognition.
Hoi An locals have worked hard over the years to attract more tourists by keeping the islands clean, and their efforts have paid off. Some 20,000 tourists now visit the area each year. Hoi An administrator Nguyen Su told Tuoi Tre newspaper, “The remaining task [for officials] is to help the residents become prosperous.
With the recognition of the Cham Islands and the Ca Mau Cape, Vietnam's number of global biosphere reserves now stands at eight.
UNESCO grants “world biosphere reserve” designation to create a balance between protecting biodiversity and natural resources and helping a country develop socioeconomically.
The Ca Mau Cape biosphere reserve spans over 371,000 hectares and comprises the Ca Mau Cape and U Minh Ha national parks of Ca Mau Province.
Studies by the provincial Department of Science and Technology have revealed an unusually large amount of biodiversity at the newly recognized reserve.
Ca Mau Cape National Park is home to 87 animal species, including the endangered long-tailed monkey and the silver langur.
U Minh Ha National Park, meanwhile, is home to seven reptile and three animal species listed in Vietnam's Red Book of endangered species. It is also home to two reptile species and one other animal species in the international Red Book.
In addition, the park includes more than 6,000 hectares of a peat reserve dating back thousands of years.
Bui Cong Buu, chairman of the Ca Mau People's Committee, told Tuoi Tre on Tuesday that with the new biosphere-reserve designation, the province will begin participating in international scientific research projects on the area.
World biosphere reserve recognition was granted to 22 sites worldwide on Tuesday, bringing the global total to 553 so far.


Source: TN, Agencies


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