By The Nation
The river basin has been nominated as a wetland of international importance (RAMSAR), intended to protect this vital freshwater source in the Northeast under WWF-Thailand’s three-year conservation project, supported by the HSBC bank as part of its five-year Global Water Programme.
This is also the first RAMSAR site in Thailand nominated as a result of the partnership between the private sector, local government and the NGO, marking it as a ground-breaking success story in conservation work. The Songkhram River basin is one of the most important yet least known rivers in Thailand’s Northeast. It is the last Mekong tributary in Thailand to boast an absence of major infrastructure blocking the water flow. This means fish can swim freely into the Songkhram River from the Mekong and use it as a spawning ground. This, in turn, replenishes the fish stocks that become a crucial food source for residents of the Mekong Region.
Once accepted by the National Environmental Board, this likely-to-be-designated RAMSAR site, the 15th in the country, will cover a 92-kilometre stretch of the Songkhram River and 34,000 rai (5,440 hectares) of basin. Over 240,000 people and 49 communities will benefit from the designation.
Yaowalak Thiarachow, country director of WWF-Thailand, said yesterday that the Lower Songkhram River Basin has rich biodiversity, which benefits all the communities living along the riverbank. This wetland provides a range of ecosystem resources that benefit people, including water for agriculture and fisheries, storm protection, flood control and recreation.
“The degradation of wetlands is a worldwide concern, because they are some of the most productive habitats on the planet. They often support high concentrations of animals – including mammals, birds, fish and invertebrates – and serve as nurseries for many of these species,” she added.
Kelvin Tan, CEO of HSBC Thailand, added that his company, which was the first financial institution in Thailand to promote the RAMSAR nomination, understands that business sustainability throughout the supply chain would only be possible if there is a sustainable environment.
“A thriving environment will lead to thriving community livelihoods, economy and businesses. With this RAMSAR nomination, we believe the project has now demonstrated exemplary water stewardship practices by the communities, and will keep this river basin healthy and resilient,” he added.
The Lower Songkhram River Basin is now a role model for the community in Nakhon Phanom as it moves forward on climate change adaptation and sustainable wetland management in the Mekong region.