The Ha Long Bay Alliance, a joint public-private effort between US and Vietnamese government officials, private-sector business partners and key local and national stakeholders, has been launched by the US Embassy in co-operation with the People's Committee of the northern province of Quang Ninh.

"Quang Ninh province has always paid attention to preserve and properly explore Ha Long Bay. With establishment of the Alliance, we will further enhance our capacity to manage and protect the bay," said Vu Thi Thu Thuy, Deputy Chairwoman of the provincial People's Committee.

Ha Long Bay is one of Vietnam's major international tourist attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It also sustains a range of other economically important activities such as aquaculture, fisheries, harbour, mining and transportation.

These economic development activities have increasingly placed pressure on the bay, degraded the environment and made the livelihoods of communities who are dependent on the Bay more vulnerable.

The Ha Long Bay Alliance aims to foster cooperation to ensure the sustainability of the Bay by raising the awareness and capacity of local nongovernmental and governmental organisations to effectively manage natural resources.

"I envision a broad public-private partnership of political actors, innovative businesses, and local organisations, working together to address the economic, environmental, and political challenges of preserving Ha Long Bay," said US Ambassador David Shear at the ceremony.

To put real resources toward the Alliance and local ownership of its development, USAID plans to make grants to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and also to the Centre for Marinelife Conservation and Community Development (MCD), a local NGO, to help organise public and private partners as well as grassroots organisations to protect and restore the environment in Ha Long Bay.

IUCN's programme is expected to emphasise policy dialogue, while MCD is expected to focus on grassroots engagement strengthening the capacity of local NGOs to facilitate improved natural resource management and sustainable economic development.-VNA