Villages Come Together to Protect Bueng Khong Long
Faced with falling water levels in the lake, growing water use for irrigation, and concerns about the changing climate, the people around Bueng Khong Long came together to manage how the lake’s water is used. With assistance from WWF, the Bueng Khong Long water management committee was formed in 2014 to bring together representatives of all 19 villages to fairly and sustainably distribute water use so everyone – upstream and downstream villages and the wetlands in between – gets the water they need.
The water use committee’s water allocation plan was put into action in 2015. After one year of community management, villagers reported that the lake’s water level was higher than it was the year before, despite Thailand being locked in its worst drought in a century at the time.
“The Bueng Khong Long water management committee is an excellent example of how communities can take the lead in managing important resources like water,” said Yanyong Srijaroen, WWF-Thailand Wetlands Project Manager. “By coming together and making a plan for sustainable water use, the people of Bueng Khong Long are ensuring the lake can continue to provide for them for years to come.”
Bueng Khong Long is recognized as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention and provides many benefits to the over 20,000 people who live around the lake. The reservoir was created over 30 years ago by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej as part of a royal initiative to improve irrigation for farmers, but it serves biodiversity as well. The lake’s wetlands are an important stop-over point for many migrating birds, and are also a vital spawning ground for fish from as far away as the Mekong, which migrate to the lake to breed. Ensuring enough water stays in the lake to support the wetlands is important for regional biodiversity and food security, as fish are a key source of protein for people in the area.
To protect the lake, the water management committee came up with the plan to fairly manage Bueng Khong Long’s water. Stakeholders from the local government, irrigation department, village heads, to the fishers and farmers living around the reservoir – as well as WWF to advice on the needs of the ecosystem – were involved in creating the water management plan, and all signed off on it. Under this plan, the committee would monitor water quality and use, and meet regularly to decide how to allocate the reservoir’s water by opening and closing the water gates into irrigation canals and solve any disputes that come up. Despite the fact water has never been rationed this way before, there have been no complaints – something the water use committee attributes to the open and participatory planning.
The committee foresees their work continuing for as long as the lake has need of them. Though the committee all volunteer their time for this, they are happy to do so.
“We are proud to work on the committee because Bueng Khong Long is the heart of the people here. The King started this work and we are honored to continue it,” said Somrai Srithin, Secretary of the Water Committee.
The HSBC Water Management Report can be downloaded at http://awsassets.panda.org/downloads/water_management_case_study.pdf
For more information, please contact:
Conservation and Marketing Communication Manager, WWF - Thailand
Phone: (+66) 2619 8521-2 Ext.102, (+66) 92 659 5642
Conservation Communications Officer, WWF - Thailand
Phone: (+66) 2619 8521-2 Ext. 312, (+66) 83 816 0006
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
www.panda.org/greatermekong to learn more.