Preah Sihanouk, Cambodia, 23 October 2014 - Based on the empirical evidence through four years of intensive learning and working together between villagers, local governments, scientists, NGOs and the media; coastal communities in eight provinces of Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam confirm climate change impacts are happening and commit to work more strategically to adapt through the adoption of the Preah Sihanouk Declaration.
Around 200 participants attend the Third and final Annual Coastal Forum which is held at Preah Sihanouk in Cambodia during 23-25 October 2014, and organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Vietnam Administration of Seas and Islands (VASI), German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation (GIZ), Sustainable Development Foundation (SDF) and Cambodian Ministry of Environment (MoE). The Forum shares experiences and learning from the European Union funded project Building Resilience to Climate Change in Coastal Southeast Asia (BCR)'s work in pilot projects. Five thematic areas are presented and discussed: coastal zone resilience, livelihood resilience, ecosystem resilience, gender and governance, as well as the role of media and communicating climate change and disaster risk reduction; with emphasis on key challenges, lessons learnt and recommendations for both practitioners and policy-makers.
Dr. Robert Mather, Head of Southeast Asia Group, IUCN Asia says, "There are some things we can't change. We can't change the fact that we have only one atmosphere that connects us all. But we can change how we choose to respond to climate risks in the places we live. We can be proactive in our response in learning to adapt to climate change. We can take positive action to change aspects of our livelihoods and lifestyles to be more appropriate in a changing climate. And at its heart, this is what the BCR project has been all about. Firstly understanding the risks of climate change in each local area, and then identifying some initiatives that can be done, to take the first few steps on that long journey of climate change adaptation".
In Cambodia, two of the most important interventions include the drafting of the Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary Management Plan in Koh Kong and coastal zoning activities in Kampot. The Peam Krasop Management Plan will help improve natural resource management and more responsible resource use through specially designated zones. The development of an environmental profile of Kampot Province together with the first detailed biological and socio-economic studies of its large seagrass area has enhanced the understanding of the main issues affecting coastal habitats, especially illegal/inappropriate fishing, pollution, and port construction.
"The dredging of a 2,160 m long channel in Koh Kapik of Koh Kong Province is considered one of the successes. This will enable local communities to have better access to health care, education and fresh water sources. It will also improve trade and livelihoods, as people fish every day without the struggle of navigating their boats through a shallow canal", says Mr Kimsreng Kong, Senior Programme Office, IUCN Cambodia.
Additionally, dolphin surveys in Koh Kong and Seagrass survey in Kampot contribute to a better development of the integrated coastal management plan of these provinces.
In Viet Nam, BCR began in 2011 when the country had just embarked on its ‘National Target Programme for Climate Change Action’ which instructed all Vietnamese Provinces to begin to plan for climate change.
Dr Andrew Wyatt, Mekong Delta Programme Manager, IUCN Viet Nam says, "What we jointly learnt with our provincial partners in that process was that poor coastal communities were often well aware of past climate trends and were able to respond with constructive ideas. We also learnt that in some cases it was extremely important to supplement local knowledge with external technical expertise. Ownership and sustainability had also been a key strategy that we pursued successfully."
For Thailand, various interventions have been implemented over the project period such as livelihood diversification, natural resources management, crab banks, gender and youth related activities, and spatial planning. The most important part is climate change adaptation has become one of the key considerations for strategic development plans at both community and provincial levels.
"BCR became a process and a tool to encourage all stakeholders in local communities to work together. The success is not only of the project but of communities who share the sense of ownership", says Ms Ravadee Prasertcharoensuk, Director of the Sustainable Development Foundation.
Marking a strong commitment beyond the project, over 200 participants at the Coastal Forum endorses the Preah Sihanouk Declaration on six thematic areas namely coastal zone resilience, livelihood resilience, ecosystem resilience, diversity and equity, government and policy, and media and communications.
"The BCR project is reaching the end of its four year life cycle. This is the last time we will all be gathering like this in a BCR Coastal Forum. But I am sure that many of the experiences and lesson learned from BCR will continue to influence our work and other projects for many years to come. Many things that BCR will leave behind like sub-district plans in Mai-Root or the Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary Management Plan in Koh Kong are just starting points that provide a guiding framework for future investment and action", concludes Dr Mather.