LAO PDR has stepped up the protection of its wetlands by joining the Ramsar Convention.
IUCN played a crucial role in the recent accession of Lao PDR to the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilisation of wetlands. IUCN has worked with the Government of Lao PDR on the process of accession to Ramsar since 2003, with support from Sida, the IUCN Asia Regional Office and the Mekong Water Dialogues Initiative.
Upon joining the Ramsar Convention on 28 September 2010, the Government of Lao PDR will designate the country’s first two wetlands of national significance, the Xe Champhone Wetlands and the Beung Kiat Ngong Wetlands. The commitment from the Government of Lao PDR to protect its vital natural wetland resources comes at a crucial point in the nation’s rapid and transformative economic development.
“Joining the Ramsar Convention signals a strong commitment on the part of the Government of Lao PDR to actively conserve and sustainably use their wetlands and resources. It recognizes the fundamental value of wetlands for the people of Lao and for global biodiversity,” says Anada Tiéga, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. “I would like to underline the key role played by IUCN in the accession of Lao PDR, a valued partner of the Convention in the work for sustainable wetland and water resources management” Tiéga adds.
“The Government of Lao PDR decided to join the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands to ensure the effective and efficient use of our natural resources, helping to achieve sustainable socio-economic development, poverty reduction and improved livelihoods in parallel with environmental protection,” comments Mme Khampheng Pholsena, Lao Minister for Water Resources and the Environment.
“Both the Xe Champhone and Beung Kiat Ngong Wetlands are ecologically significant areas and make vastly important contributions to sustaining the livelihoods of people who live in and around them. This is why they have been selected as Lao PDR’s first two Ramsar sites”, says Mme Latsamay Sylavong, Country Representative of IUCN in Lao PDR.
The Xe Champhone Wetlands in Savannakhet Province provide important food and livelihood resources for approximatively 20,000 people, including a vital source of sustenance for food and livestock in the dry seasons. The wetlands are also home to the critically endangered Siamese crocodile as well as a number of turtle species.
The Beung Kiat Ngong Wetlands in Champassak Province support around 11,500 villagers who live around the site and depend on its fisheries, subsistence agriculture and non-timber forest products.
As part of its accession to the Ramsar Convention, the Government of Lao PDR will commit to supporting the “three pillars” of the Convention: ensuring the conservation and wise use of wetlands that it has designated as Wetlands of International Importance; including the wise use of all wetlands in national environmental planning; and consulting with other Parties about the implementation of the Convention, especially in regard to transboundary wetlands, shared water systems and shared species.
Lao PDR’s Wetlands:
Lao PDR has a diverse topography, ranging from floodplains to highland areas. Wetlands extend across all these environments, including the Mekong River, its 14 main tributaries, and more than 100 streams. Most of the water flowing into the Mekong Basin originates in Lao PDR: 35% of total flow in the dry season and up to 80% in the wet season. In addition to the Mekong floodplain, other important wetland areas in Lao PDR can be found in the seasonally flooded areas along rivers such as the Xe Bang Fai and Xe Bang Hieng. Lao PDR’s wetlands provide vital environmental, economic and cultural services to the country’s people, particularly in rural areas. As well as ecosystem services such as providing habitat for a wide variety of species, flood protection and groundwater renewal, wetlands supply natural resources that are central to livelihoods in Lao PDR, from fish to fodder to tourism opportunities.
The Xe Champhone Wetlands comprise a large floodplain nourishing perennial rivers and a wide variety of scattered lakes and ponds. The wetlands provide important food, resources and livelihoods for the approximately 20,000 people who live in and around the site. Thousands of cattle are also raised in the area and the wetlands have become increasingly critical to both people and livestock during the dry season. Of the many lakes and ponds, some form habitat for critically endangered Siamese crocodiles (Crocodylus siamensis), and are home to several species of turtles.
The Beung Kiat Ngong Wetlands are located in a large floodplain and are made up of a large freshwater marsh and a seasonal wetland with a number of scattered ponds and paddy fields. The site is especially important for fish, which rely on the permanent wetlands for survival during the dry season. It is also important for fish spawning, which takes place both inside the wetlands, and during the wet season when some of the fish migrate to upstream tributaries to spawn. Fish species identified from the site include walking catfish (Clarias spp.), snakeheads (Channa striata) and swamp eels (Monopterus albus). The wetlands support some 11,500 villagers who live in the site and who are primarily reliant for their income on wild-capture fisheries, subsistence agriculture and non-timber forest products.
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