IUCN Lao PDR recently published the results of a 2 years study “Conserving Biodiversity and Sustaining Livelihood along the Mekong River in between Luang phrabang and Vientiane, Lao PDR” supported by the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Funds (CEPF).
The project completed the first comprehensive biological survey of the 450 km section of the Mekong mainstream between Vientiane and Luang Prabang. This was complemented by a detailed socio-economic survey of all 97 communities along this section, including some that do not yet appear on official maps. The combined results of these two surveys guided the formulation of project concepts for sustainable development initiatives in 15 communities.
The results of the project act as a reality check for conservation of lowland rivers in Lao PDR. On the one hand, the biological survey revealed that levels of biodiversity were lower than expected and key elements had already been lost. On the other hand, the socio-economic survey revealed local people’s high levels of dependence on wild plants and animals, and ongoing declines in many of them.
The project brought together different stakeholders to formulate conservation solutions that address local livelihood needs while mitigating threats to key elements of biodiversity that remain. For instance, the project assisted eight communities to identify four community-managed Fish Conservation Zones in the spawning grounds of Jullien’s golden barb (Probarbus jullieni).
By working with local partners to develop these interventions, IUCN has helped build local ownership for them.
Nina Marshall, managing director of the CEPF, stated “I am confident that the results of the project will inform conservation action in the Mekong from Vientiane to Luang Prabang for years to come, as well as provide a baseline against which the impacts of development can be measured.”
Water and Wetlands Coordinator, IUCN Lao PDR