The importance of regional cooperation took centre stage at the first Steering Committee meeting and inception workshop for the Indo-Burma Ramsar Regional Initiative (IBRRI), held on 29 and 30 March in Bangkok, Thailand.
The event shared the Ramsar Regional initiative’s vision with the wider wetlands community and officially launched the new regional wetlands project “Mekong WET: Building Resilience of Wetlands in the Lower Mekong Region”, which will support the technical implementation of the IBRRI.
Ramsar Regional Initiatives (RRIs) are platforms recognised by the Ramsar Convention, the international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands, as an effective way to promote and better implement the objectives of the Convention. By supporting cooperation and capacity building on wetland-related issues and with IUCN Asia acting as the secretariat, IBRRI aims to support the effective implementation of the Ramsar Convention in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam.
The initiative provides a platform for collaborating with representatives of intergovernmental bodies, Ramsar International Organization Partners, NGOs, local communities and private sector entities.
During the meeting, Steering Committee members representing each of the IBRRI member countries highlighted the important role of IBRRI in assisting member countries to strengthen their capacity for implementing sound wetland management practices and policies.
The Steering Committee also approved the initiative’s Statutes and Operational Guidelines and programme for 2017, and explored linkages with existing Ramsar-related programmes and initiatives in the Indo-Burma Region.
On the brand identity front, the initiative launched its new logo after Steering Committee members voted for their favorite design concept.
The Mekong WET project aims to build climate resilience by harnessing the benefits of wetlands, in particular Ramsar sites (or wetlands of international importance), in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam. The project also aims to help the four countries to address their commitments to the Ramsar Convention and to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Given its focus on building the resilience of wetlands and its surrounding communities, the project directly supports the work programme of IBRRI.
“In the next few months, Mekong WET will be conducting climate change vulnerability assessments and developing management plans in ten Ramsar sites, with a focus on climate change adaptation and resilience building,” said Angela Joehl Cadena, Senior Programme Officer, IUCN Asia. “The project will also build the knowledge, skills and expertise of wetland management staff and community representatives on climate change adaptation in wetland socio-ecological systems.”
Workshop participants also explored the idea of establishing a sub-regional plan under IBRRI to provide more focused attention to areas that are most affected by wetland degradation. In the next few months, the committee will look at Ramsar initiatives in the region and establish whether or not the current objectives set out by the organisation are being met.
Wetlands, including marshes, rivers, mangroves, coral reefs, and other coastal and inland habitats, are among the most productive ecosystems in the region. They support the lives and livelihoods of millions of people through a large array of ecosystem services such as fisheries and water provision.
In the Lower Mekong region, millions of people rely on wetlands for their survival. In recent decades, infrastructure development, increased deforestation, expansion of irrigated agriculture and increasing urbanisation have resulted in the depletion of spawning and feeding grounds for fish, shrinking wetland habitats, and reduction of water quality. Farmers are increasingly affected by saltwater intrusion, landslides and flash floods, which are intensified by climate change.
"Establishing initiatives such as IBRRI and Mekong WET will certainly contribute to the survival of these very important resources,” Raphael Glemet, Senior Programme Officer, Water and wetlands, IUCN Asia. “Trans-boundary dialogues and mechanisms to enable transfer of knowledge and sharing of experiences on wetlands governance are key to ensuring wise use and conservation of these ecosystems for future generations.”