Wetlands support biodiversity stability and growth, but did you know that 35% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared in the past 50 years? This is a trend that must be reversed. Wetland restoration has a dramatic impact on our globe and benefits us in multiple ways including reviving biodiversity, improving water supplies, storing carbon, reducing extreme weather, improves livelihoods, boosts eco-tourism, and enhances well-being.
World Wetlands Day takes place globally every February 2nd to serve as an opportunity to highlight wetland biodiversity, its status, why it matters and to promote actions to reverse its loss. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) works with communities and government to protect and restore Lao wetlands including the Xe Champhone Wetland. Xe Champhone Wetland, located in Savannakhet Province, is the largest of Lao PDR’s two Ramser sites and contains core habitat for a globally important population of the critically endangered Siamese Crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis), a fact which led to the site being declared a “Wetland of International Importance” under the Ramsar Convention.
On February 10th, the Vice Governor of Savannakhet Mrs. Lingthong Sengtavanh, government representatives from Central, Provincial and District levels, including the Department of Forestry, and Department of Water Resources joined university students and WCS staff walked along the Mekong River in Savannakhet under the banner “It’s time for wetland restoration.”
“As the first World Wetlands Day walk in Savannakhet, this is a significant and meaningful event. It celebrates and increases awareness of how important wetlands are for Lao PDR, especially for Savannakhet Province. Wetlands are valuable for life, providing food and livelihoods as well as a habitat for biodiversity, including crocodiles, turtles, fish, and birds.” Said the Vice governor in her opening remarks, continuing “We must work together to conserve our wetlands, by stopping the throwing of rubbish, hunting of wildlife, and illegal acts like electro-fishing. We must stop the clearance of the wetlands and stop land grabbing by people who then try to sell. We must proactively manage and balance activities around the wetlands, or problems will increase such as sedimentation, impacts of droughts and floods.”
WCS works to secure protections against the destruction of critical habitats while also working to provide local communities with improved planning for more sustainable resource use, and alternative livelihoods that support sustainable wetlands management through funding by the Margret A. Cargill Foundation, and the European Union and French Development Agency financed Ecosystem Conservation through Integrated Landscape Management in Lao PDR "ECILL" Project.