The Asia Foundation –
There were no fish in the Nong Tham Hee wetland in the 2017 dry season. There were none in the 2018 dry season. The people of Nyangkham village, who once fished here year around, saw only cracked, parched earth. Over the years, the water had slowly dwindled, as farmers in the village expanded their rice paddies into the wetlands and disrupted their natural hydrology. It wasn’t until the community got organized that things started to change.
Lao PDR (Laos) is rich in natural resources: water and fertile land, timber, metals, gems, and minerals. Laos’s wetlands have long provided its people with a range of benefits, including water for agriculture, fish and wildlife habitat, water purification, and flood mitigation. But this precious endowment is increasingly threatened by unsustainable economic development practices. Among them the reclamation and conversion of wetlands for agriculture is one of the most significant threats facing natural wetland ecosystems.
In the past, resource management in Laos was divided up between different ministries, depending on the type of resource. Development planning was centralized, and water projects were often implemented without local input or deliberation. Over the past decade, however, as pressure on water resources has grown, the government has worked to institute more effective, community-based approaches.