Project to restore wetlands reserve launched

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has launched a four-year long project to restore the Lang Sen Wetlands Reserve in the southern province of Long An.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has launched a four-year long project to restore the Lang Sen Wetlands Reserve in the southern province of Long An.

The project, titled "Avoidance of maladaptation through climate smart agriculture and restoration of in Vietnam", aims to replicate the success of restoring the Tram Chim National Park, an internationally recognised Ramsar site.

The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty signed in 1971 that recognises wetlands with global importance, especially habitats for waterfowl.

The Tram Chim National Park, located in the southern province of Dong Thap, and the wetland reserve make up the last remnants of the once-vast natural wetlands known as the Dong Thap Muoi (Plain of Reeds) region.

"The Lang Sen project shows the importance of wetland restoration and support for local livelihoods, and how they can benefit from each other," said Annette Frick, deputy head of Development Cooperation at the German Embassy in Hanoi.

Over the years, the wetlands in the Lang Sen Reserve have been converted to rice fields and have been subjected to poor water management.

Artificially high levels of water are maintained in the core zone of the reserve to prevent forest fires, but this has led to change in habitats resulting in significant population declines of certain key species, including the Sarus crane.

The crane has not been able to adapt to changes in its natural habitat and loss of feeding areas.

However, about 1,500ha of the reserve is covered by wetlands and grasslands which are important breeding and wintering grounds for a number of wetland and migrating bird species. It is also an important spawning ground for many commercial fish species.

"Together with severe climate-change impact, a dense system of dikes and canals erected by the Government since 2004 in order to prevent forest fires has led to a massive disturbance of the natural hydrological regime," said Nerissa Chao, Mekong Delta landscape manager of WWF-Vietnam.

"In the absence of appropriate management for the sustainable use of natural resources, local communities have been excluded from receiving any benefits from the reserve, resulting in illegal activity. In addition, the impact of climate change is affecting livelihoods and increasing vulnerability of local communities," she added.

WWF aims to restore this wetland area to its natural condition by supporting the implementation of a new hydrological regime mimicking the historical water flows.

At the same time, the project will train the Lang Sen Reserve staff in wetland management and monitoring of water, fauna and vegetation.

The project will also address the impact of climate change to the surrounding communities by using Climate Smart Agriculture models and exploring opportunities for sustainable use of wetland resources.

"The dike system is a consequence of the Government's uniform policy on Forest Protection and Development. What we want to advocate to local authorities is to adopt a wetland management model based on the needs of the natural ecosystem," Chao said. "We have demonstrated this approach successfully in Tram Chim National Park and would like to expand this to Lang Sen Wetland Reserve."

The project will improve biodiversity conservation in the reserve through strengthening reserve management, supporting law enforcement and patrolling and monitoring, while improving local livelihood opportunities and reducing conflict between the reserve and surrounding communities.

The project is sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – Germany. It is implemented by WWF-Vietnam in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in the southern province of Long An and the Lang Sen Wetland Reserve.-VNA

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