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Changes in the Role and Management of Wetland Commons in the Lao PDR: Elder Perspectives from Pak Peung Wetland

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Millar, Joanne; Baumgartner, Lee; Homsoumbath, Khampeng; Phommavong, Thonglam
Conference: Practicing the Commons: Self-Governance, Cooperation and Institutional Change
Location: Utrecht, the Netherlands
Conf. Date: 10-14 July
Date: 2017
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/10396
Sector: Fisheries
Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: East Asia
Subject(s): commons
food supply
Abstract: "Freshwater wetland commons in Lao PDR are highly biodiverse, and provide food and income security for people living on the Mekong River floodplains. Wetland use, management and governance have changed dramatically over the last 50 years in response to population increase, irrigation and hydropower development, and institutional influences. This paper examines changes in the condition and management of the Pak Peung wetland common in central Lao PDR through the experiences of village elders living near the wetland. Twenty five elders from six villages were interviewed in 2012. An open interview guide was used to explore elder observations of changes to wetland condition and traditional commons governance, and their views on future governance and management strategies. Changes in wetland condition were described as significant loss of habitat with declining fish species and catches. Perceived causes were overfishing, use of modern or illegal fishing gear, felling trees to trap fish and the irrigation weir preventing fish migration. Elders recalled past traditional management practices with strict cultural rules and sanctions around when and where people could fish. Fishing was not allowed on Buddhist holidays or full moon, and people could only catch fish for themselves or for the temple. Conservation areas were well known in the past, and small or breeding fish were left alone. Suggestions for improving wetland management and governance included stronger regulations, policing of illegal fishing methods, conservation zones for fish breeding and revegetating around the wetland. A recent transition from government to community co-management of the wetland with a scientifically designed fishway was seen as positive. However the power of commercial markets, government policies, outsider access and loss of traditions continue to threaten the sustainability of the wetland. The paper concludes with a discussion of the potential to bring back the cultural elements of commons governance within the new realm of scientific co-management."

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