World Wetlands Day celebrated in Lao PDR’s Two Ramsar sites.

Ramsar site launching in Xe Champhone Ramsar site on the 6th February 2012 and awareness raising events in Bueng kiat Ngong Ramsar site on 2nd - 3rd February 2012

banner Photo: IUCN Lao PDR

This year, World Wetlands Day was celebrated at Xe Champhone Wetlands in Savannakhet for the first time. The celebration also marked the first official launching of the site a Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Government officials and local people from provincial, district and local levels joined in the festivities.

The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty that commits member countries to conserve their Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar sites) and plan for “wise use” of all wetlands in the country. Lao PDR became a signatory to the convention in 2010 and designated two Ramsar sites at that time, Xe Champhone in Savannakhet and Beung Kiat Ngong in Champassak. These sites were chosen primarily for their high biodiversity and because they are home to key threatened species. Xe Champhone for example is home to a population of Siamese crocodiles.

World Wetlands Day 2012 marks the 41th Anniversary of the Ramsar Convention. The theme for the glocal celebration was “Wetland Tourism: A great experience – Responsible tourism supports wetland and people”, recognizing the vital role of well managed tourism in promoting and generating funds for wetlands conservation.

As is the case around the world, Lao PDR’s two Ramsar sites are important tourist sites. About 20,000 tourists travel to Xe Champhone and about 1,200 tourists to Bueng Kiat Ngong each year. Xe Champhone has more local tourists and Beung Kiat Ngong has more foreign tourists. By working to promote domestic tourism, recreational day trips and visits from foreign tourists, economic value generated by wetlands tourism can be further boosted in Lao PDR.

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the Savannakhet Provincial Government organized varies activities on 6th February for partcipants to promote wetlands conservation, emphasizing the importance of tourism as a key ecosystem service.

About 2,700 provincial and district government representatives, teachers, students, journalists and representatives of civil society came together at Xe Champhone wetlands in Champhone District to officially launch the Ramsar site and celebrate World Wetlands Day. During the morning ceremony, speeches from representatives from provincial and district governors discussed the need to raise public awareness on Ramsar principles, the value of wetlands and associated benefits from tourism. There was also a parade and song and dance performances. Local students sang songs about environmental protection. In the afternoon, games and quizzes about conservation were organized for students from four secondary and primary schools in and around the Xe Champhone wetland site. This was very much a collaborative community effort with monks organizing the launching ceremony at the temple. World Wetlands Day coincided with a special Buddhist Day (Makhabusa), so these events were celebrated in parallel. Local people cooking 2,000 lunches for all the children and other guests.

“Lao PDR’s wetlands can be considered tourism opportunities. This is one of the ecosystem services that wetlands provide. Ensuring the sustainability of tourism in and around wetlands contributes to the health of wetlands and livelihood of people so that the other services can be sustained” commented Ms Latsamay Sylavong, Country Representative for IUCN Lao PDR.

In addition to festivities and launching ceremony at Xe Champhone wetlands, wetlands conservation awareness raisning events were organized at Beung Kiat Ngong Ramsar site. IUCN, Pathumphone district authorities, and three village clusters, held games and quizzes about conservation at four secondary schools for about 1,032 students and 358 teachers in and around Bueng Kiat Ngong wetlands.
World Wetlands Day is a global event organized by the Ramsar Convention Secretariat in Gland, Switzerland.

For more information on wetlands and World Wetlands Day please visit the Ramsar Convention website at

Photo:Launching Ceremony at Xe Champhone Wetlands.
Photo: Children’s games about wetland conservation at Bueng Kiat Ngong.

Notes to editors
For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:
Mr. Vilavong Vannalath (Field Coordinator), IUCN Lao PDR
Tel: +856 31 253 273; +856 20 5573 5135, email:

About IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)
IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental network. IUCN is a democratic union with more than 1,000 government and NGO member organizations, and some 10,000 volunteer scientists in more than 150 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by 1,100 professional staff in 62 countries and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world.

IUCN helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges by supporting scientific research; managing field projects all over the world; and bringing governments, NGOs, the UN, international conventions and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice.


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.



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