The Louisiana-based America’s WETLAND Foundation and Vietnam National University are holding the Deltas 2013 Vietnam conference this week in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The conference, expected to host about 300 wetlands experts from around the world, will allow Louisiana and Vietnam representatives to share best practices and ideas to help save the Mississippi and Mekong deltas, two river systems that suffer from similar problems, including dramatic land loss.
“We come to the Mekong Delta to search for answers and to leverage all that we have learned to restore one of the most productive U.S. assets, the Mississippi River Delta,” said R. King Milling, chairman of the America’s WETLAND Foundation.
The America’s WETLAND Foundation hosted the first World Delta Dialogues in New Orleans in October 2010 to draw attention to coastal land loss issues and to create solutions.
“After the first event in Louisiana, we returned to the Mekong Delta, realizing we had much in common,” said Le Quang Minh, Vietnam National University’s vice provost.
This year’s conference focuses on rising sea levels because of climate variations, subsidence of coastal landscapes and methods for developing flood protection structures in greater concert with nature.
“It is a bit overwhelming to realize the challenges and similarities of our two deltas,” said Karen Gautreaux, the Nature Conservancy of Louisiana’s director of government relations. “Beyond the large stands of mangroves, marsh grasses providing habitat for crane populations and marine species are similar to the swamps of coastal Louisiana.”
Robert Twilley, director of Louisiana Sea Grant, who will help officially open the conference on Tuesday, returned from touring Can Gio Mangrove Forest with praise for the preservation efforts of Vietnam.
“Today we ventured deep into a cathedral of mangroves, in the first mangrove biosphere reserve sanctioned by UNESCO,” Twilley said. “You cannot help but respect the role nature plays in filtering our water, sustaining fisheries and providing protection for our communities, when you see such environmental strength in the shadow of a major metropolis like Ho Chi Minh City.
“We need to do all we can to build back these natural assets on Louisiana’s coast.”