The Indo-Burma region is home to large and diverse wetlands, including fresh and coastal ones. These wetlands host important biological diversity across the region that encompasses five countries – Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam supporting livelihoods like fisheries and rice production, among many others, and the well-being of their residents directly and indirectly.
These wetlands are, however, threatened by many developmental issues and climate change.
The intensification of hydropower, increased deforestation, expansion of irrigated agriculture, and rapid urbanisation are affecting fish habitats and harvest and water quality, water storage, and groundwater recharge in the region’s major basins, including the Mekong, Ayerwaddy, Chao Phraya, Mekong, Red, and Salween Rivers.
On the other hand, climate change is expected to increase average temperatures, alter rainfall patterns, cause sea level rise, and increase the intensity and frequency of extreme events like storms, droughts, and floods.
As a response, the governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam came together to sign an agreement called the Ramsar Convention to identify biodiversity hotspots – a total of 37 Ramsar sites in the Indo-Burma region.
The Ramsar Convention also established an Indo-Burma Ramsar Regional Initiative (IBRRI) to catalyse wetland conservation action in the region, bringing together governments, academics, NGOs and Ramsar International Organization Partners to address the most pressing threats to regional wetlands and fostering discussions on transboundary wetlands.
The IBRRI report, “A Regional Synthesis of Results and Lessons from Mekong WET Small Grants 2021-2022”, highlights 17 initiatives in critical wetlands to enhance future ecosystem services and support climate change adaptation.
The project awarded 17 small grants to various local civil society organisations, university researchers, and national and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam. The funding amount of each grant ranged from EUR 5,000 to EUR 20,000 and added up to over EUR 300,000.
The grants conducted climate change vulnerability assessments in new wetlands and implemented priority restoration and conservation actions identified in past reviews under the Mekong WET project.
The new publication synthesizes case studies of the 17 initiatives, highlighting achievements and challenges encountered, identifying lessons learned and sustainability concerns, and providing recommendations for future investment considerations.
What is Mekong WET?
Mekong WET was designed to develop an effective and replicable framework for delivering Ecosystem-based Adaptation and mitigation benefits from existing and planned Ramsar sites through activities from 2017 to 2022, including:
- Development of new management plans incorporating Ecosystem-based Adaptation;
- Improving knowledge, skills, and practices of site managers; Providing financial and technical support for pilot activities;
- Promoting recognition of the value of wetlands and the importance of Ecosystem-based Adaptation approaches in national policies, strategies, and plans; and
- Establishing new arrangements for information sharing across borders and collaborative management of transboundary wetlands.
Mekong WET is funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building, and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).
New IBRRI report highlights climate change adaptation in Indo-Burma wetlands. (2023, February 2). IUCN. Retrieved from https://www.iucn.org/news/202301/new-ibrri-report-highlights-climate-change-adaptation-indo-burma-wetlands
IUCN. 2023. A Regional Synthesis of Results and Lessons from Mekong WET Small Grants 2021-2022. Bangkok, Thailand: IUCN. Retrieved from https://www.iucn.org/sites/default/files/2023-01/small-grant-regional-synthesis-final.pdf