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Geopark in Vietnam

Integrated capacity building through research-based geopark development in N.E. Vietnam

A Geopark is a geological site or a collection of sites with specific geological heritage of international significance. It has clearly defined boundaries where sustainable economic development, mainly through tourism, can take place. Geoparks often feature spectacular scenery much appreciated by tourists who also benefit from insights into the history of the Earth and its natural resources. 

Their ultimate aim is to bring enhanced employment opportunities for the people who live there while strengthening identification of the population with their area, and stimulating ‘pride of place’ and cultural development. Geoparks use a holistic approach to conservation where all aspects of a Geopark’s scientific, natural and cultural heritage are valued, conserved and promoted under the Geopark label.

Dong Van Karst Plateau (Ha Giang province, Vietnam) in the far north of Vietnam is the first and only national geopark in Vietnam, established September 2009. Through its Global Network of National Geoparks which was launched in 2001, UNESCO provides support to national initiatives related to geological heritage and development. The Global Geoparks Network Bureau assembled on 3 October 2010 in the framework of the 9th European Geoparks Conference in Lesvos, Greece. DVKP Geopark was admitted to the Global Network of National Geoparks which now has 77 members in 24 countries (concentrated in East Asia and Europe, with the exception of Benelux).
This nomination is a reconnaissance of the exceptional scenery, the many geological features and well preserved cultural heritage of the area, but also depends on the active support of the Vietnam Institute of Geology and Mineral Resources of Vietnam’s Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and its Belgian partners, united in the VLIR-EI project ‘Integrated capacity building through research-based geopark development in N.E. Vietnam’ (2007-2012): KULeuven, Laboratory for Education and Society, KULeuven Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, V.U.Brussels,  Department of Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering, and the Geological Survey of Belgium. It is the outcome of a long-standing Belgian – Vietnamese cooperation started almost 20 years ago by a Mineral prospecting project, which shifted focus to the mountain karst of northern Vietnam through a spin-off of speleological expeditions, leading to a land and water management project and passing via a nature conservation project before arriving at developing geoparks.

Besides an important aspect of student exchange, activities assisted by the Geological survey of Belgium in 2010 included defining the heritage values, setting up the management team, formulating an educational programme, and preparing the geopark for Global Network of Geoparks status by assisting the Vietnamese partners. Year 4 of the project thus saw the main achievement of the project: nomination of Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark as member of the Global Network of Geoparks under the auspices of UNESCO. This was preceded by the creation of a national geopark in September 2009, application for global status to UNESCO in November 2009, revision of the application dossier and preparation of the assessment by UNESCO designated experts, compilation of leaflets and geosite-files during the first half of 2010. 
Dong Van karst Plateau Geopark was presented at the 4th International UNESCO Conference on Geoparks “Global Geopark – The Natural Way Forward”, 9-15 April 2010. Langkawi, Malaysia. Its promotion was made in an influential article ‘In Northern Vietnam, a Region of Beauty and Ethnic Traditions’, auth. J. Bleyer, New York Times, 27.10.2010, based on extensive data exchange with the author. News on Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark for the Belgian geological community was published in Miscellanea Geologica of December 2010.
The Asia-Pacific Geopark Network APGN biannual conference will be held in Hanoi, July 2011, in co-organisation with the Belgian Geopark project. Our contribution so far to the objectives of the conference results from a fundamental discussion on the influence of cultural differences on geopark development and the different meanings of geotourism.

Internal member(s)
Michiel Dusar
Other member(s)
KULeuven (coordinator)
Funding
VLIR-EI (Flemish Interuniversity Council – Own Initiatives)
Partners and sponsors
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