World Peatlands Day is celebrated on the 2nd of June each year, founded by the International Peatland Society back in 2019.
What are peatlands - peatlands are a type of wetland that are formed from partially decomposed plant materials (roots, leaves, stems etc.) that have accumulated over long periods of time, sometimes over thousands of years.
This accumulation of organic matter results in peatlands being a significant store of carbon - representing about 30 percent of the world’s soil carbon, which is an amount greater than the world’s above-ground forests all combined. Maintaining these carbon stores in their natural condition plays an important role in the global effort to combat climate change.
Peatlands are also important ecosystems that support rare and unique plants and animals, stores groundwater throughout the year, and often provides food, medicines and other resources to local communities and their livelihoods.
Peatlands in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) have not yet been fully inventoried or described in detail. Initial surveys undertaken during 2015 identified the presence of peatlands scattered throughout various locations in Lao PDR, from north to south.
In Vientiane Province, peatlands have been found as floating peat mats and seasonally flooded swamps. In Champasak Province, initial mapping using remote sensing imagery indicate the likely presence of many small peatlands surrounding the Beung Kiat Ngong wetland, which is the largest recorded peatland in Lao PDR.
There are other areas too where peatlands are likely to exist, including Attapeu Province, Savannakhet Province, Khammouane Province, and maybe elsewhere ?
As the documentation and mapping of peatlands across Lao PDR is in its infancy and far from complete - the knowledge and tools needed by government to conserve and sustainably manage them is also lacking.
To assist the Government of Lao PDR with this task, two peatland projects are currently underway, implemented by the Department of Water Resources under the Ministry of Natural resources and Environment, in partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Both projects are regional in scope with activities in Lao PDR. The Sustainable Management of Peatland Ecosystems in Mekong Countries (the Mekong Peatlands Project) is implemented in Lao PDR Myanmar and Cambodia, with funds provided by the Global Environment Facility.
The second project belongs to the Sustainable Use of Peatlands and Haze Mitigation in ASEAN (SUPA) Programme which is being implemented across the ASEAN region. The SUPA Programme is co-funded by the European Union and Government of Germany.
Both projects support activities designed to enhance sustainable management of peatland ecosystems in Lao PDR, through improving the knowledge-base and understanding of the types, functions, and values of peatlands; and by strengthening peatland management through policies, plans and best management practice in sustainable use of peatland resources and livelihoods.