The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) launched a regional project to enhance the resilience of wetlands in Lower Mekong countries on the occasion of World Wetlands Day (February 2).
Funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), and to be implemented until 2020, the project builds climate resilience by harnessing the benefits of wetlands in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Việt Nam.
Mekong WET will help the four countries address their commitments to the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands, and to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. With wetlands featured as a key ecosystem, the project also supports governments in implementing their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) under the Convention on Biological Diversity and pursuing their commitments on climate-change adaptation and mitigation under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
There are a total of 28 Ramsar sites (wetlands of international importance) in the four Mekong WET countries. The project will develop management plans, with a focus on climate-change adaptation and resilience building, in 10 selected Ramsar sites, and improve regional collaboration on transboundary wetlands management. This will include the sharing of best practices, as well as capacity building for 150 wetland management staff and 300 community representatives.
The project also aims to share lessons and approaches with an additional 18 Ramsar sites, as well as a number of potential or proposed new sites in the four Mekong WET countries. Wetlands, like marshes, rivers, mangroves, coral reefs and other coastal and inland habitats, have many important functions, including the regulation of water flows, the provision of clean water and carbon storage. 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 urbanization 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.
In line with this year’s World Wetlands Day theme “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction”, Mekong WET emphasizes the important role of healthy wetland ecosystems in reducing disaster risk. Wetlands act as natural buffers by mitigating land erosion, the impact from floods, tsunamis and landslides, and by storing large amounts of water, thereby reducing peak flood flow during the wet season, while maximizing water storage during the dry season■