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February 26, 2008

Visit to Thailand towards attending the International Conference on Managing Wetlands for Sustainable Development at Trang

The workshop on Managing Wetlands for Sustainable Development was organised with a mandate for effective Partnerships and the Need for Co-Management as the benchmark for wetland development. The workshop examined various promising initiatives that have sprung up that take innovative and alternative approaches to the managing and wise use of wetland resources. These include various levels of community involvement and community participation in wetland development and management, co-management arrangements, successful policy incentives and instruments, smart partnerships and other innovative win-win solutions to wetlands management. This conference aided in providing guidance to replicate such successful efforts elsewhere and Kunal from Keystone Foundation benefited from these discussions to replicate sustainable ideas in the greater Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Keystone seeks to actively inculcate wetland education modules in the region as well as take steps to document and protect the remaining wetlands. This is a challenging task and would involve training on managing wetlands in active cooperation with respective stakeholders. The workshop promises to institutionalize management ideas into replicable outputs through adaptive management of wetland resources.

Schedule

8th January, 2008 – Arrival at Trang
9th January, 2008 – Programme starts. Some of the key presentations of the day include

Dr. Monthip Sriratana Tabucanon Policy and Measures on Environmental Management in Wetlands areas of Thailand

Dominic Wodehouse Peatlands: Science, Livelihoods and Politics – A Way to Achieve Results

Mrs. Nirawan Pipitsombat Ramsar Sites in Thailand: Best Practice for Biological Diversity

Asst. Prof. Dr. Thummarat Koottatep, Challenges of Wetland Systems for Water Pollution Abatement in the Tropics

Masakazu Kashio Launching of “Mangrove Guidebook for Southeast Asia”


Shimpei Iwasaki Managing fishery cooperatives towards self-development: lessons from coastal India

Bhagwan Raj Dahal Using participatory socio-economic wetland valuation to address wetland management issues at Koshi Tappu, Nepal

Hugh Kirkman Community level monitoring of seagrass beds and how this assists with management

Nik Ismail Azlan Between Homestay and Wetland Mangrove: A Partnership Lesson in Eco-tourism

Uthid Siriarepapong Patterns of Post-tsunami Mangrove Rehabilitation in Ban Nai Rai Community, Tambon Natery, Amphoe Tai Mhuang, Changwat Phung Nga

Harban Singh Sustainable ‘best practices’ of the Ramsar sites of Johor, Malaysia (encompassing sub themes of 1, 2 and 3 namely community participation, research and wetlands and poverty reduction)

Jeevan Ballav Panda Globalization and International Regulation of Wetlands: Time for a Sustainable Approach

Amy M. Lecciones Engaging Multi-Stakeholder Participation in Lake Conservation

Nutjaree Chareinboonwanon A Method of Making Wetland Maps to Store Flooding Water Using Low Altitude Aerial Photos

Jim Enright Utilizing the Ecological Mangrove Restoration Method for Effective, Bio-diverse Habitat Restoration: Post Tsunami Lessons Learned - the Hard Way

Kamaruzaman Jusoff Management of Mangrove Forest Using UPM-APSB AISA AIRBORNE HYPERSPECTRAL


It was a busy day today and I gained lots of impressions on management practices of wetlands around the world and especially in South East Asia. Some of the approaches, especially that of the Mangrove action project was educative, wherein the focus should be on rehabilitation and not restoration.

Day I was a somber reminder that conferences are meant to be serious affairs and we were unleashed upon a barrage of presentations from all and sundry. A number of interesting people have come from FAO, from Wetlands international, from Yale school of Forestry, from several research institutes in Thailand and Malaysia and also Japan. I have met some of these interesting people and have realized that the level of their understanding of issues is high as well as that appreciation of all things from a multitude of perspectives.

Anyways, after the first day of presentations, I was exhausted and looked forward to the dinner which was an exquisite Thai affair.






10th January – Field Trip

We left for the field trip to one of the districts of Trang province. Reaching a mangrove village and taking a small walk inside mangroves on bamboo strung together, I got in the boat with a host of other participants.

A long boat ride on the long tail boat that is common ton the west coast of Thailand in near direct sun rays was memorable, for the mangroves and also for the first view while we entered the sea.

The river meeting the sea, sand banks at every turn, birds all around, Casuarina equisetifolia growing high, mangroves looking rich and the distance the Loh Muk Island. Before I could take in the view, we reached the zone of sea grass – grass growing underwater- wavy to sight, same as grass to the touch…. And tones of it everywhere…. Looking around, somebody told me that the Dugongs which are huge sea animals come to the grass lands to feed….

And then to the large boats. Looking at the Loh Muk island first and then to numerous sheer limestone cliffs, it was a day I may well not forget in a hurry…. Finally, the clear skies beckoned us to the Koh Kradang Island which was STUNNING…. Been to several beaches but none so white ad so clean… glass would not show so many levels of transparency as we were witness to.

Lunch and I wandered off…. Just walking till the end and then walking a bit more…. The cleanest, clearest water and I was walking beside it…… just about beginning to believe that I was here.

At the end of the road, I went snorkeling – watching fish swim by, sometimes a big one. Staying for around 2 hours, I left after all had settled back into the ship, never wanting to lift my foot away from the island.

Back in the boat, saw the Emerald cave where people are towed on a rope and taken to the cave which sparkles like emerald due to a mixture of sun’s rays and some natural events.

Huge landscapes and then we were back to the Pak Meng pier which is close to the Rajamangala University where saw what they say is a small aquarium but to me, at least- was a huge and superbly maintained piece of well thought out infrastructure – looked around and then went for a final trip to the sea. Walked for a kilometer and reached my last limestone karst which was standing at the end of the beach.

Back to the bus, satiated to say the least, we reached Trang and had an evening session with a surprise dinner and a lot of talk…. The surprise was nice, for after the trip - they asked us to join in the evening and discuss what are the future courses of action that can be taken up after the workshop and most people declined as they were too tired or probably delirious after the trip. Some 8 of us went and we were treated to a super dinner....

11th January, 2008 -

Next day was the finale and again the presentations came in a deluge. But today, most were not relevant or useful for me as they were scientific in nature and the language proved to be a real hinderance. My own presentation went off well with several people sayingthat it was very interesting to hear about Keystone's work in the Nilgiris....

Thereafter, the conference soon concluded and I went homewards.

Conclusion

The conference resulted in a formal announcement and some joint programs that are to be implemented by organizations based in Thailand and Malaysia. Also, selected papers will be published in a special journal issue. All the presentations have been put up in the web for gaining more understanding of each others work. Additionally, a mailing list is scheduled to be generated for researchers and managers to share and discuss their experiences in the region. A learning experience of such high scientific quality and efficient managerial outputs would definitely assist in the upcoming proposal to be submitted to IUCN for a project on wildlife and wetlands management.