Preparation of a Management Plan for Beung Kiat Ngong wetlands highlights importance of cross-sector coordination and valuation of ecosystem services
One component of the Mekong Water Dialogues’s work in Lao PDR includes collaborative work with provincial, district and village authorities to design a Management Plan for Beung Kiat Ngong wetlands in Champassak province, one of the country’s two Ramsar sites. The plan will guide long and short term conservation of the site and will follow the wise use concept. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands defines wise use of wetlands as “the maintenance of their character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development”.
Beung Kiat Ngong is one of the country’s two Ramsar sites. Under its commitment to the Ramsar Convention, the government of Lao PDR has designated two wetland sites as “wetlands of international importance” to be prioritized for implementation of the wise use concept.
The Management plan has been drafted by the Provincial Ramsar Committee and the District Ramsar Field Management Team and will be finalized soon. While of the course the document itself is very important, equally important has been the setting up of these governing bodies and a coordination system amongst relevant sectors which was required to draft the document. To date, in Lao PDR, responsibility for wetlands management has not been clearly assigned to specific government ministries or departments, an impediment to wetlands conservation. To address this gap, after Beung Kiat Ngong was designated a Ramsar site, IUCN and government counterparts worked together to set up a cross-sector Provincial Ramsar Committee and District Ramsar Field Management Team. This enabled them to take a leadership role in the management preparation process.
The first major work to be carried out by the Field Management Team was consulting local communities about management planning. This work required that the team work through and learn to resolve some of the challenges that come along with cross-sector collaboration, such as considering issues indirectly related to each sector. The team also strategized about how to ensure their long term ownership of wetlands management. As a result, the team will be well prepared to carry out future work in implementing the plan (including incorporation into each sector’s individual planning process) and carrying out on the ground conservation activities.
Work on the Management Plan has also resulted in an appreciation for the importance of conducting economic valuations of ecosystem services. When working with the Provincial Ramsar Committee on the plan, the IUCN field officer based in Pakse, Mr. Vilavong Vannalath presented the existing information on the site. He referred to one of IUCN’s studies on ecosystem services of the wetland from 2008. The study indicated the wetlands supports grazing for a total of 4,350 elephants, buffalo and cattle and estimated that if local people had to purchase feed for all of these animals, the cost would be about USD 263,000 per year. This dollar estimate of a key service provided by the wetlands (currently received free of charge) was amazing the Ramsar Committee. This led the committee into a discussion of the need to carefully manage the wetlands to maximize economic value, without compromising the ecological integrity of the wetlands. For example, the number of livestock on the wetlands will need to be regulated to maximize income to local people without letting the wetland be damaged by overgrazing.
IUCN, the Provincial Ramsar Committee and the District Management Team look forward to sharing the Management Plan when it is finalized in June.
About the Ramsar Convention
The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 160 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 1910 wetland sites, totaling almost 187 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. Ramsar’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local, regional and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.
Lao PDR was the 160th country to join the Ramsar Convention, and the 8th in the ASEAN region.
For more information about Mekong Water Dialogues in Lao PDR, please contact Mr. Vilvaong Vannalath, IUCN Lao PDR: firstname.lastname@example.org