Link to teaching case:
The perceived conflict between development and conservation is a key issue in the Ha Tien Plain, which is the last of its kind remaining in the Mekong Delta. The 2,000-hectare seasonally inundated grassland, dominated by the sedge Lepironia articulata (Cyperaceae), supports a mosaic of grassland, wetland and limestone ecosystems with a rich biodiversity including a population of the tallest flying bird, the Eastern Sarus crane, listed as 'vulnerable' by IUCN due to wetland loss. Over the last 20 years, economic development such as agro-forestry (22,000 hectares of abandoned Eucalyptus plantation), rice (extremely low yield) and ongoing shrimp aquaculture (highly acidic water requiring constant neutralization) in the area, classified by the government as 'unproductive' in its natural state, has mainly failed. The resulting monocultures have destroyed 98% of the Plain's natural habitat. Apart from that, the area provides an economic base to the Khmer ethnic minority, who harvest Lepironia for production of woven goods, which currently have a low profit margin. This leads to an unsustainable harvest.