Protecting Wetlands is Protecting Sources of Water

08 April 2013 | Article

Koh Kong, Cambodia, 23 and 24 February - More than 500 people gathered to celebrate the World Wetlands’ Day in Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary (PKWS) in Koh Kong, which is home to the largest mangrove forests in Cambodia.  

The event was co-organized by the Department of Wetlands and Coastal Zones, the Ministry of Environment and Pannasastra University of Cambodia, and supported by several agencies such as the Fisheries Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, IUCN's Mekong Water Dialogues, European Union, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Birdlife International, Flora and Fauna Institute, WCS, WWF, Live & Learn, NGO Forum, Mlub Baitong, UNDP, Danida, Link World Guide and Travel Company.

Among the participants were representatives from all sectors of the society including Koh Kong’s provincial authorities, the Department of Wetlands and Coastal Zones, Pannasastra University of Cambodia, the Provincial Environmental Department of Koh Kong, non-government agencies based in Koh Kong, and primary and secondary schools.

The theme of this year's celebration of the event was “Protecting Wetlands is Protecting Sources of Water’’.

"If there are no wetlands, there is no water and if there is no water, there are no wetlands. It means that without wetlands and water, our lives cannot exist. Therefore, we should all maintain and protect wetlands, keeping in mind that preserving wetlands can help us mitigate climate change”, said H.E Say Socheat, Koh Kong’s Deputy Provincial Governor.

At PKWS, the coastal area is degraded by sand migration, which leads to mangrove loss. To prevent coastal erosion and reduce beach migration, participants helped plant 500 mangrove seedlings and grass species that play an important part in preventing erosion. These plants are critical habitats that contribute to biodiversity and enhance natural barriers, protecting against storms and high waves. By doing this, they help to reduce hazards related to climate change and to improve the resilience of local communities living nearby and in the PKWS.

"If the wetlands are to be sustainably maintained and protected to continue their ecosystem functions and services, active and full participation from all of us is needed. This is not the unique responsibility of any particular institution, it is our shared responsibility to manage and protect them" said Mr Kong Kimsreng, Senior Programme Officer, IUCN Cambodia.

During the event, university students were active in educating their younger counterparts about the values and benefits of the wetlands and organized quizzes with rewards.

Dr Chea San Chanthan, Chancellor of Pannasastra University of Cambodia, stressed that youth participation, especially from all levels of students, in protecting, managing and restoring the wetlands, is a potential mechanism to sustain the wetlands to maintain their normal functioning and services to support people's livelihoods.

"I am very happy to participate in this type of events. It reflects youth participation in the conservation and management of natural resources, especially mangrove forests which play an immense role in reducing coastal erosion and providing services to both people and nature, such as environmental balance and climate change mitigation", added Mr Chhorm Kakada, second-year student from the Pannasastra University of Cambodia.

"It was the first time that the World Wetlands Day was organized in Koh Kong Province. The annual celebration of this event plays a significant role in promoting public awareness about the functions and values of the wetlands", said Dr Srey Sunleang, Director of the Department of Wetlands and Coastal Zones.

Cambodia is one of the contracting parties to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, since 1999. The convention aims at the conservation and wise use of wetlands and resources. To raise public awareness, the World Wetlands Day is organized each year on 2 February by Ramsar Parties worldwide. In Cambodia, the Ministry of Environment is responsible for organizing the event annually in order to promote public awareness of the values and functions of wetlands and their benefits to people and nature.

By Sun Kong, Lou Vanny and Sorn Pheakdey

For more information, please contact
Mr KONG Kimsreng, Senior Programme Officer, IUCN Cambodia
Email: kimsreng.kong@iucn.org