Celebrating RAMSAR Convention Day
Anniversary of the signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, internationally known as the “Ramsar Convention”, named after the city of Ramsar in Iran where the convention was signed on February 2, 1971
The older generations used to say that when riding an elephant through the Beung Khiat Ngong (Khiat Ngong Wetland) or Beung Phapho, it was possible to feel turtles moving through sedges to the elephant trail.
Recently, Mr Soukkhaseum Phothisanh and Mr Kideng Thammavong, who are both former provincial leaders of Savannakhet province, said that in an area of standing water in the Xe Champhon River there are still various species of aquatic animals, reptiles and amphibians.
Villagers in the wetland of Beung Kiat Ngong, Champassak province. --Photo FAO Lao PDR/Xavier Bouan
Aquatic animals are those kinds of fish enjoying marshes and silts including snakehead fish, catfish, knife fish and several types of carp. There are also soft shell turtles, eels, crabs, shrimps, mussels, rhinoceros beetles, giant water bugs and other insects (Maeng Ket-tao, Maeng Eed, Maeng La-ngam). Reptiles include the Siamese crocodile, water monitor, Bengal monitor, many species of turtles and tortoises, other lizards and snakes. Amphibians include frogs, tree frogs and bullfrogs. Added by the former provincial leaders, besides the above mentioned, there are also macaques living in trees around the wetlands. I am therefore very really proud to know that Laos was the 160th country to sign on to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in September 2010.
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has so far been ratified by 169 countries. I am even more delighted to learn that the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment together with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations established a proje ct that aims to help communities living in both significant wetlands of Laos including Xe Champhon in Savannakhet province and Beung Khiat Ngong in Champassak prrovince, in order for them to be able to adapt to climate change through the development of sustainable livelihood options for the communities together with the rehabil itation and sustainable management of the two globally significant wetland sites of the Ramsar Convention.
I greatly hope that the project will create opportunities for younger generations to learn about the stories passed on by the elder generations like myself and the two former provincial leaders. My greater hope is to see further adoption of the project success in all different wetlands of Laos.
This is because wetlands are ecologically, economically and culturally significant for Lao people. In short, I would like to emphasise the importance of wetlands to the lives of aquatic animals in paddy fields and water courses, and hydrological systems.
Wetlands are important to aquatic animals because at the end of the rainy season, which is the Ancestor Festival, fish and other aquatic creatures from paddy fields, ponds and streams migrate to marshes and lakes where they can still access water in the dry season for shelter and hiding. Fish and other aquatic life forms migrate from deep pools to paddy fields, ponds, and streams where there is more water in the wet season.
Hydrologically, wetlands store water and filter it before rapidly entering into large rivers. During the dry season, wetlands still have water to maintain the ecosystems in the area.
The facts mentioned above are only a small part of significant features of wetlands. I would like to sincerely applaud the government in ratifying the Ramsar Convention in 2010; together with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in cooperatively establishing such a project to help wetland-dependent communities to protect the two wetlands sites of Xe Champhon and Beung Khiat Ngong.
n Dr Sisalieo Sawaengsuksa is the President of the Association to Support the Development of Peasant Societies and Lao Farmers' Products. He holds a PhD in Geography and was a Member of the Lao National Assembly during the 7th Legislature (2011-2016).
By Dr Sisalieo Sawaengsuksa
(Latest Update February 4,2017 )