There are times when no matter how much a business tries to avoid or mitigate its environmental impacts, significant damage to the environment is inevitable. This is particularly a problem with the mining industry, which typically extracts large volumes of rock. And it’s especially an issue with the cement industry, which quarries limestone and clay to produce cement that’s literally the foundation of the houses, roads, bridges, and ports, and other infrastructure that make up a country’s “built” capital. And the issue is even more important in Vietnam where the conversion from “natural” to “built” capital is happening so fast.
This is the context in which IUCN is working with Holcim Vietnam Limited (HVL), which is the largest cement producer in southern Vietnam with a cement plant in Kien Luong District in Kien Giang Province. Research by the Center for Biodiversity and Development (CBD) in HCMC has documented very high levels of endemism on the karst (limestone) hills that the company is quarrying. In other words, these are plants and animals that only exist and can only be protected in the wild locally. For example, these hills are home to 50% of a sub-species of Silvered langur and many plants and invertebrates have been described that are only found here.
To address the unavoidable loss of biodiversity caused by limestone quarrying, HVL, IUCN, and CBD have collaborated to offset the impacts of quarrying by working with the Kien Giang People’s Committee (PC) to establish the Kien Luong Karst Nature Reserve (KLKNR) to protect the remaining karst hills. This will involve quarrying in ways that avoid impacts, particularly on the plants and invertebrates, and where this is not possible quarrying in ways that allow the Silvered langurs to migrate to undisturbed habitat. A proposal has been submitted to the PC to establish the KLKNR and we are waiting to hear back.
The report Partnership for Biodiversity: Making Biodiversity Part of Business summarizes IUCN’s global agreement with Holcim. With 80,000 employees and production sites in 70 countries, Holcim is the world’s third largest cement and aggregate producer with sales of $10 billion in the first half of 2010. The creation of the KLKNR is referenced on page 18.
You can download a booklet prepared by CBD with the support of IUCN and other partners on the biodiversity of the karst hills of Hon Chong here.