Protected Areas, Development and Climate Change in the Lower Mekong River Region

Rakhine Joma
Published: 23 May 2018
Last edited: 05 October 2020
remove_red_eye 1850 Views


The Lower Mekong River Region is a biodiversity hotspot. Forests, rivers, flood planes and wetlands support innumerable species, and are the foundations of rural livelihoods and local economies. Over the past 30 years, human development has forced many of these ecological systems to exist within landscapes and seascapes of anthropological pressures. Recognizing that communities and economies are better suited to adapt to climate change if natural systems remain intact, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Viet Nam formed a region-wide partnership to adopt action plans for the strategic expansion of the region’s protected area (PA) network, and to formally integrate PAs into national, sector and regional development. The collaborative effort of governments, NGOs and corporations continues to study the nexus of conservation and development, examining the role of PAs in poverty reduction and climate change mitigation.


Southeast Asia
Scale of implementation
Coastal forest
Coral reef
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems
Marine and coastal ecosystems
River, stream
Rocky reef / Rocky shore
Tropical deciduous forest
Tropical evergreen forest
Tropical grassland, savanna, shrubland
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Ecosystem services
Fisheries and aquaculture
Food security
Forest Management
Indigenous people
Legal & policy frameworks
Local actors
Protected area management planning
Ecosystem loss
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor governance and participation
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 11: Protected areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge


Pakse, Champasak Province, Laos | Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and China
Show on Protected Planet


Environmental – This solution addresses the challenges of managing natural resources that are not confined to country boundaries, and of forming a strategically planned and managed regional PA network.


Social – One of the main social challenges this solution addresses is alleviating poverty; particularly in poor communities bordering PAs. By strategically designing PA networks to protect ecosystem services, such as water filtration and food production, natural resources can be safeguarded and benefits can be incorporated into development planning to alleviate poverty.


Economic – This solution addresses the challenges of quantifying the economic value of PAs and their natural resources, and of collaboratively managing nature-based economies (such as fishing) across political borders.


The beneficiaries of this solution include the governments, citizens, and industries residing in the Mekong region.

How do the building blocks interact?

Quantify the economic value and contribution of PAs and natural resources to poverty alleviation and then add PAs and natural resources to the country budget and management plans and invest in their actual management


Environmental – The partnership has facilitated collaborative planning and management of the region’s PAs and natural resources. It has led to the establishment of shared goals and objectives, including the formation of a process to treat PAs and their natural capital as productive units in the economy subject to regular stock taking with the results reflected in GDP and budgets. The initiative also set the foundation to strategically expand the region’s PA network so critical ecosystems, such as flood planes, are included in PAs and not incorporated into human settlements.


Social – The partnership continues to prioritize poverty reduction in communities bordering PAs and landscapes that provide critical ecosystem services. Additionally, the continued expansion of the region’s PA network will serve a natural solution to mitigate the effects of climate change. Moreover, the collaborative effort has fostered positive working relationships between agencies and industries within each country, as well as across national borders.


Economic – Collaboration ensures that nature-based economies, such as fishing and tourism, are managed sustainably and consistently across political boundaries, ensuring resources and economies can flourish into the future. This is particularly important for resources that spread across country borders, such as rivers and migrating animal species.

Contributed by

Petro Kotze

Other contributors

ICEM - International Centre for Environmental Management