On November 27, 2015, the Long An Provincial People’s Committee (PPC) organized a meeting in Tan Hung to celebrate Lang Sen to become Vietnam 7th Ramsar Site and the 2,227th globally. Vietnam ratified the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (commonly called Ramsar Convention) in 1989 when it nominated Xuan Thuy Wetland in the Red River Delta as its first Ramsar Site (and the first in Southeast Asia). It took more than 15 years for the second site, the Bau Sau Lake in Cat Tien National Park, to be nominated. But since 2011, thanks for the efforts of the National Ramsar Authority, six more sites have been designated, four of them in the Mekong Delta. IUCN has assisted with the preparation of the nomination documents for all six sites.
Lang Sen is a 4,800 hectare wetland located in the Plain of Reeds, the wetland that once covered some 700,000 hectares. Lang Sen includes good examples of riverine forest habitats and large area of lotus swamp, semi-natural melaleuca forests, swampy forests, and seasonal inundated grasslands. The wetland is home to several wetland-dependent bird species including the globally threatened Sarus Crane and Greater Adjutant. Lang Sen supports 87 species of fish, which are important as food for local people, including 27 that are only found in the Lower Mekong such as the globally threatened Mekong giant catfish and the giant carp.
Over the past 30 years, population growth and agricultural intensification have transformed the delta from a largely natural or semi-natural wetland to an intensively managed, human dominated landscape. Almost all of the Plain of Reed has been converted to rice paddy. The remaining remnants of the original wetland are confined to a few small patches, notably Tram Chim National Park (which was designated a Ramsar site in 2012) and Lang Sen Wetland Reserve. Those two sites are not only important as refuges for wildlife but also provide important environmental services. These include the regulatory service whereby the wetlands absorb water during the rainy season and release it during the dry season, thereby mitigating both flood and drought risk. These site recharge groundwater and are an important source of freshwater for people during the dry season.
In the letter to MONRE and the Long An PPC on the occasion of ceremony in Tan Hung, Dr. Lew Young, Senior Regional Advisor for Asia-Oceania at the Ramsar Secretariat in Switzerland, stated: ”By designating Lang Sen as a Ramsar Site, the Government of Vietnam has made an international commitment to manage and ensure the wise use of this unique and beautiful siteso that its ecological services can continue to benefit both locals and visitors”.
Designating the site is just the first step: “There will no doubt be many successes and challenges ahead” continued Dr. Young. The most important task is to manage these sites so that their values and benefits are maintained for future generations. He added: “The Ramsar Secretariat and the partners of the Ramsar Convention will be there to provide the best support” to efforts to ensure that Vietnam’s Ramsar Sites are effectively managed for both people and nature.
IUCN's BMUB-funded Integrated Planning (IP) project supports research and advocacy in the Mekong Delta to integrate ecosystem conservation and rehabilitation into regional planning and investment. As part of IP, IUCN has funded a study that shows that while intensive 3-crop a year rice farming may be profitable for a farmer (assuming that the costs of dike construction and maintenance are excluded), there are substantial negative externalities that are not factored into agricultural investment decisions.