Cambodia's wetlands cover over 30 percent of the country’s land area and support one of the largest, most diverse and intensive freshwater fisheries in the world. In the flood season (July-February), the flood waters from the Mekong River and Tonle Sap Lake catchments create a vast open water system on Cambodia’s lowlands. During this period, inundated rice fields become open access fishing grounds for local villagers and migrant fishers.
This paper introduces the characteristics of the Delta and outlines the pressures that are impinging on the sustainability of the Delta's wetlands. Although these pressures are non-linear and interacting, three are considered prominent. These pressures stem largely from rice production and the associated large scale water control infrastructures, shrimp aquaculture, and the inadequacy of the current institutional arrangements. Responses to these pressures are discussed noting the diverse interventions made in the past and the present.
Cambodian inland fisheries have a remarkably high importance as a source of food and animal protein for the country's population. Cambodian inland fisheries amounted to 360 000 tons in 2002 according to the Department of Fisheries, contributing up to 16% of the GDP. The Tonle Sap Lake and its floodplain play a central part in fisheries productivity, not only for Cambodia but for the other parts of Lower Mekong Basin as well.
Increasing awareness about wetlands is essential to improving their management, but it is not enough. Also needed are fundamental shifts in the ways that wetland resources are valued, and in the ways that decisions are made about who has access to those resources, how they are used and how they are managed.
Ben Tre, a coastal province in the Mekong Delta, has diverse wetlands and rich aquatic resources. Following its re-unification in 1975, the People's Committee of Ben Tre Province assigned provincial agencies to implement wetland management measures. However, conflicts developed during the implementation. To resolve these conflicts, the Provincial Party Committee and the People's Committee developed guidelines and directives to define the roles and responsibilities of the departments. The policies implemented are discussed.
More than half of the 4 million hectares of the Mekong Delta are covered by acid sulfate soils (ASS). Most ASS areas have been reclaimed for agricultural production during recent decades by means of new canals, new settlements, floodplain drainage, and new rice varieties and cropping systems. In 1996, agriculture occupied 83% of the total area of the Delta. Urban areas account for 10% of the total area. This leaves only 7% for natural or semi-natural wetlands. Rice is the dominant agricultural product and greatly contributes to the food security of the country.
The Legal Division of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, Vietnam with the assistance of IUCN conducted a recent review of current legislation on wetlands in the country. Its aim was to provide the goverment with a basis for developing effective laws and regulations on wetland use. As Vietnam does not have any legal framework for wetland protection yet, it is proposed that the goverment promulgate a degree on the protection and management of wetlands.
This report covers the range of wetlands as defined by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. These include inland wetlands (such as swamps, marshes, lakes, rivers, peatlands, and underground water habitats); coastal and near-shore marine wetlands (such as coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, and estuaries); and human-made wetlands (such as rice fields (paddies), dams, reservoirs, and fish ponds).
Ways of revising the wetlands classification system for the lower Mekong River Basin is discussed. A revision is needed in order to link the "Inventory and Management of Wetlands in the Mekong Delta" project with national wetlands management.
Forests have always suffered from socio-economic pressures, particularly demographic pressure in the rural upland area where 26 million inhabitants belonging to 54 different ethnic groups live. The need to create jobs for a growing labour force and to produce food has led the local people to exploit the forests heavily. The consequences are the reduction of forest area and demage to the environment. The National Assembly and the Goverment have developed a national program for rehabilitation aiming to incraese the forest cover from 28% (1999-2000) to 43% by the year 2010.