Wetlands are central to the livelihoods of rural communities through out the Mekong Region, providing vital functions and services that support the rural economy, ensure food security for the most vulnerable membrs of society, and underpin the prospects for national development. Proper appreciation of the importance of wetlands has been hampered by inadequate information and awareness of their uses, particularly among development planners, as well as legal and institutional frameworks that are often fragmented and poorly enforced.
The Lower Mekong Basin has extensive wetlands and these are being threatened by numerous problems. Most of these problems are interdependent and interact with one another. The lack of an appropriate definition of wetlands applicable to the region, pervasive inefficiencies and chronic lack of funds among riparian governments, and the poor appreciation of the true economic importance of wetlands and its resources are among the most prominent.
This paper deals with relationships between hydrology, wetlands and fisheries production in the Mekong River Basin. A five-year monitoring of the bag net ("dai") fishery in the Tonle Sap River (Cambodia) showed a strong correlation between catches and water level in the same year. One taxon making up to 37% of total catches explains most of the relationships between catches and water level. The current overall catch in the Tonle Sap system amounts 230,000 tons a year. When compared with historical surveys, this catch is twice as much as the catch 60 years ago.
Some of the most important inland fisheries in the World are found in semi-arid regions. Production systems and livelihoods in arid and semi-arid areas are at risk from future climate variability and change; their fisheries are no exception. This paper reviews the importance of fisheries to livelihoods in ‘wetlands in drylands’, with a focus on case-studies in Africa. We examine the threats posed by climate change to the traditional ‘tri-economy’ of fishing, farming and livestock herding.
Fish play an increasingly important role in national and local economies of many developing countries. Africa’s rivers, wetlands and lakes are especially important for poor rural households for whom they provide employment and income opportunities in areas where other economic alternatives are scarce or inexistent. They also provide nutritional safetynets in these regions with limited roads and access to market. However, policy makers and regional decision makers tend to underrate fisheries, in particular inland small-scale fisheries.
The rapid expansion of coastal aquaculture has serious environmental and socioeconomic consequences, which include large-scale removal of valuable coastal wetlands, land subsidence, acidification, salinization of groundwater and agricultural land, and subsequent loss of goods and services generated by natural resource systems. Practices that are environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable should therefore be promoted through integrated planning and management within the framework of coastal area management (CAM).
Lakes and reservoirs are affected by human interventions mainly by eutrophication. Changes in morphology are less common, although siltation and local alterations to the riparian zone can result from urbanisation,marina construction and deforestation. In lakes and particularly reservoirs used for water supply and power generation, rapid drawdown can occur that damages riparian vegetation and fish populations.
The program which was implemented in 1998 and will end in 2010 aims to have five million hectares reforested and 9.3 million hectares protected - an increase in forest cover from 28% to 43%. This increase will ensure ecological security, increase freshwater generation, and conserve genetic resources and biodiversity of the tropical forests. It will create two million jobs, contribute to hunger eradication and poverty alleviation, promote agriculture, and enhance political and social stability. However, the program faces a number of investment and institutional challenges.
The perception of natural resources management issues in the wetlands varies among stakeholders. This paper provides an analysis of stakeholders in two sites in Ca Mau (mangroves area) and Kien Giang (Melaleuca forest or peat swamp). Based on the analysis, an elaborate action oriented research and training program was drawn up to address the problems. The main purpose being to enhance the management capability of stakeholders in natural resource management.
Lessons learnt from a workshop organised by the University of Agriculture and Forestry, Vietnam in 1999 are presented. The workshop was held to explore additional ways of understanding wetland classification and to discuss challenges confronting research on institutional aspects of integrated wetlands management.