On 9 February, IUCN Lao PDR organised an event in Phonsim Village, Savannakhet Province, to celebrate World Wetlands Day, which falls on February 2. The event took place at Phonsim Upper Secondary School, close to the site of the local Phonsim Wetlands. The event aimed to raise awareness about the importance and benefits of wetlands and focused on inspiring communities to take ownership of their wetlands and conserve them for the future.
“Healthy wetlands lead to improved ecosystem services and better quality of life for communities living around the wetlands, through the provision of food resources, and protection from flood events,” said Mr Noukan Inthapanya, Deputy Head of the Provincial Office of Natural Resources and Environment (PoNRE), in his opening remarks.
Amy Scott, IUCN’s Water & Wetlands Programme Advisor, emphasised the importance of encouraging youth involvement in wetland conservation, and to use the World Wetlands Day event “to foster greater knowledge and appreciation of wetlands by the next generation."
More than 180 students participated in the event. Activities on the day included presentations by IUCN and PoNRE, a knowledge quiz in which students actively answered wetland-related questions, and a drawing contest in which students presented some beautiful drawings of wetlands. The students also talked about the importance of wetlands to their community and showed a good level of understanding about the relationship between wetlands and the livelihoods of people living around them.
Lao PDR has designated two wetland areas as Ramsar sites: the Xe Champhone in Savannakhet Province and Beung Kiat Ngong in Champasak Province. The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
A number of activities are currently being undertaken that contribute to the conservation and management of Ramsar sites in Lao PDR, including an assessment of climate change vulnerability of wetland communities, habitats and species; a gender survey to better understand the roles of men and women in wetland use and management; and a study to identify priority areas for invasive species control and habitat management. Training programs for local communities and government on wetland conservation and management have been planned for 2018.