Monday, 5 April 2010
Thai local group urges Ramsar designation for Spoon-billed Sandpiper site
One of the most important non-breeding sites for Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus in the Inner Gulf of Thailand, Khok Kham, has taken a major step towards Ramsar designation, thanks to an appeal by Local Conservation Groups.
"It is rather surprising that good sites still exist there, as it lies just at the outskirts of the mega-city of Bangkok", said Simba Chan, Senior Conservation Officer at BirdLife's Asia Division.
Between 1979 and 1996, up to 90% of the mangroves were converted to shrimp ponds. But after ten years, the shrimp industry crashed. "The decline in catch made many fishermen understand the importance of mangroves, and that a balanced ecosystem is vital to their fishery", Simba Chan added.
As a result, a local grassroots environmental movement started in the late 1990s. Bird Conservation Society of Thailand (BCST, BirdLife Partner) supported this movement from the beginning. To date, there are four Local Conservation Groups (LCGs), working in coordination with BCST on the conservation of the Inner Gulf.
On World Wetlands Day 2010, local people sent a petition to Mr Suvit Khunkitti, Thailand's Minister of the Nature Resources and Environment, requesting that Khok Kham be designated a Ramsar Site. Their petition was welcomed by the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP), the Ramsar Administrative Authority in Thailand.
Ramsar Site designation in Thailand is a bottom-up process. "Only when local communities see the benefits and commit themselves to safeguarding their local wetland, can it be successfully designated a Ramsar Site", said Gawin Chutima, Chairman of the BCST. Local people have said they seen Ramsar designation as a defence against unsustainable development.
Many Inner Gulf sites are still unprotected and under threat. BCST's efforts to conserve and protect this huge area have been supported over the past three years by the Darwin Initiative through a project entitled 'Strengthening partnerships for Ramsar implementation in South-East Asia', and will continue into the future.
"With cooperation and support from the Local Conservation Groups as well as other BirdLife Partners along the East Asian-Australian Flyway, we are certainly not alone", Gawin Chutima concluded.