Water and fire management of a peat swamp forest

Full Solution
Rich in biodiversity: U Minh Thuong National Park. Copyright Sharon Brown.

The solution recovered natural conditions and protects 3,900 ha of unique peat swamp forest ecosystem. The conservation of Melaleuca trees found in this forest type is a national priority because they buffer floods, recharge aquifers and provide habitat for endangered wetland species. About 25,000 people living in the park’s buffer zone benefit through the provision of clean water and small cultivated fish.

Last update: 30 Sep 2020
Défis à relever
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Poor monitoring and enforcement
biodiversity loss due to artificial flooding The U Minh Thuong National Park in the southern part of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta suffered from habitat and biodiversity loss due to inappropriate artificial flooding to avoid fires. To avoid future fires after 3000 ha were burnt in 2002, the area was flooded permanently. As a result, the peat swamp forest ecosystem was degraded; bird species and biodiversity were lost.
Scale of implementation
Coastal forest
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Ecosystem services
Geodiversity and Geoconservation
Flood and fire management, ecosystem restoration
U Minh Thuong National Park, Vietnam
Southeast Asia
Summary of the process
The multi-stakeholder workshop (building block 1) puts in place a process for co-management of the U Minh Thuong National Park, with a focus on the water (building block 2) and fire management (building block 3) of this unique peat swamp forest. The strong political will from all levels ensures that the joint agreement of all parties involved leads to appropriate planning and implementation of actions, including infrastructure, equipment and capacity building through suitable training of park staff (building blocks 2 and 3). The joint agreement of actions to be taken and their timely execution (Building block 1), together with the co-management approach, takes account for benefits and impacts beyond water and fire management. Interactions of all three building blocks have not only contributed to peat swamp forest ecosystem restoration, but also to provide clean water and cultivates fish in waterways which benefit 10,000 people living in the park’s buffer zone.
Building Blocks
Multi-stakeholder workshop
Participants representing diverse interests meet to discuss three issues: biodiversity in the National Park, water management and fire prevention, and co-management for natural resources. The group decides on actions to be taken and agrees on an appropriate timetable for action. Group members include representatives from ministries, universities, science and planning institutes, province governments’ staff, national parks, protected areas, and local communities.
Enabling factors
• Agreement on the problem • Strong political will at all levels • Engagement of the local community • Support for technical and methodological knowledge • Support to establish and sustain co-management
Lesson learned
Not only was the problem recognized and prioritized, but also stakeholders at all levels showed strong commitment to working together for saving this significant cultural site, its biodiversity and ecosystem. The support provided by the project to start and follow through with a co-management process proved to be a winning input that brought together all stakeholders with different backgrounds to jointly identify the problem. This process helped all stakeholders reach an agreement to undertake the appropriate steps towards conservation and sustainable development of the National Park. It also allowed, at the same time, accommodation of farmer’s interests to raise an endangered, endemic fish species that contributes to food security and income.
Water management
Efficient water management schemes for the appropriate flooding of different soils in peat swamp forests are designed and implemented, using existing canals and constructing new gates if required. Fire prevention infrastructure is made available, and Park staff are trained in management, technical, law enforcement, monitoring and evaluation issues. As part of co-management, support is provided to local farmers to cultivate endemic fish which live in peat swamp forests.
Enabling factors
• An evidence-based solution • The necessary funding to implement the building block • Engagement of the local community • A co-management agreement
Lesson learned
This building block was developed and implemented in close partnership with the national government. The political will from all levels encouraged the national government to provide funds for the infrastructure. The project collaborators provided complementary support for training and livelihood development, with a focus on the importance of maintaining the park as the source for clean water and fish fingerlings. This support enhanced the relationship between park staff and the local community.
Fire management
A fire management plan is developed and put into practice, including investment planning and establishing the appropriate equipment and infrastructure for fire prevention and to control burning. Moreover, park staff capacity is developed through training in sustainable fire management, law enforcement, monitoring and evaluation.
Enabling factors
• An evidence based solution • The necessary funding to implement the building block • Engagement of the local community • Preferably a co-management agreement
Lesson learned
The partnership between the governmental authority in charge of implementation and the project was strong due to the political will from all levels. As a result, the national government funded the infrastructure while the project complemented the success of this building block with the necessary training for capacity building of park staff, and livelihood development of people. The co-management approach was crucial for the success of fire management for this peat forest and thus conservation of the National Park’s unique ecosystem.

1. With improved water management, no major fires occurred. The Melaleuca forest recovered, biodiversity increased, and the bird population rose by 33% over 3 years with 9 new species being recorded. The peat is a 2.7 million tons carbon sink. 2. The park supplies a clean water source and small fish for 10,000 people living in the park’s buffer zone. 3. Convictions for looting, poaching and infringements in the park continue to significantly decline.

park buffer zone residents, park staff, tourists, students, and scientists
I am a ranger of the U Minh Thuong National Park. I am very proud to be a ranger in this park because it was a base for resistance forces during two Indochina Wars and because of its natural beauty and its wildlife. The park has the highest conservation priority in Vietnam. In the past most of the Mekong Delta was covered in Melaleuca forests and there were many peat wetlands and enough big fish for everyone. After 1991, my Government supported the development of the delta for rice and aquaculture production. We are now very large exporters of these products worldwide. In 2002, the area’s status was upgraded from Nature Reserve to National Park. The park is one of only two remaining peat wetlands in Vietnam. It is my job to protect the wildlife from the threats of fire and from poaching from the local people. I also work with the local people to teach them about fire safety, the value of the park to their wellbeing and have assisted them with improving their livelihoods by growing one of the parks’ endangered and endemic fish species on their farms. In 2002, a fire that is thought to have been started by local people collecting wild honey burned 3,000 ha of the Parks forest and peat. Soon after the fire, the government called on national scientists to advise the park management on how to prevent more fires in the future. The recommendation was to permanently flood the park and this was implemented immediately. After about one year we were able to see the decline of wildlife, trees became yellow and started to fall over and waterweeds started to choke the canals. In 2010, GIZ assisted the Park to implement a government funded water management practice aimed at restoring the wetlands to their natural condition through a system of gates, pump stations and canals. The changed management practice now protects 3,900 ha of the remaining Melaleuca forest and peat (2.7 million tons of Carbon) from wild fire while promoting habitat restoration. Park surveys have found avifauna in the Park completely recovered, with even more diversity than was recorded before the fire and artificial flooding. Two new bird species were recorded and the water bird population has increased by 33 % after only 3 years. I am full of pride that the U Minh Thuong National Park was recognized as Asian Heritage Park in 2013.
Conectar con los colaboradores
Other contributors
Sharon Brown
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Stefan Groenewold
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
To Huynh Huu
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH