By Jane Nishida, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of International and Tribal Affairs
The Chesapeake Bay is one of the nation’s most vital resources, providing important habitat for fish and wildlife, and recreational and tourism opportunities for millions of people each year. While increased tourism and development has supported the area’s economic growth, it has brought with it a suite of environmental challenges, including nutrient pollution, loss of forests and wetlands, and air pollution stemming from increased development in the area. In my previous roles as Secretary of Maryland’s Department of the Environment and Maryland Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, I saw first-hand the impacts of this damage, and worked closely with local residents, stakeholders, elected officials and the federal government to begin on a major restoration and protection effort. Not only can we protect the bay and surrounding wildlife, we can ensure the continued economic benefits of tourism for the future.
Nearly 8,000 miles away from the Chesapeake Bay lies an area with similar opportunities and challenges. Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is known around the world for its striking beauty and diverse ecosystem. However, as with the Chesapeake Bay, concerned citizens and government officials are seeing increased degradation and pollution as more and more people access the Bay for tourism, recreation and shipping development.
Last week, these groups took action to begin to address the complex economic, environmental and political challenges facing Ha Long Bay. I had the honor of being present for the launch of the Ha Long Bay Alliance, a partnership made up of U.S. and Vietnamese government officials, private sector business partners, and key local and national stakeholders, all working to preserve and protect the Bay. Following the announcement, I visited Ha Long Bay to meet with the local residents and leaders that will be on the ground to make this happen. During these meetings, I had the opportunity to share my experiences working to restore the Chesapeake Bay, and answer questions on potential challenges and solutions.
Though these two locations are thousands of miles apart, the environmental challenges they face are shared. EPA’s international engagement is focused on supporting efforts just the like the Ha Long Bay Alliance. By sharing best practices and providing technical assistance, we can work with our international partners to address global environmental concerns, and protect irreplaceable natural resources so that they can be enjoyed by future generations.