Speaking at a fish-release ceremony held to mark National Wildlife and Aquatic Animal Day on the Nakai Plateau on July 13, Khammouane Deputy Governor, Mr Somchay Phetsinuan, said that provincial and district agencies were working to raise awareness among villagers on the importance of managing valuable aquatic resources. A Reservoir Management Committee, consisting of local fishermen and women and government officers, has been set up to create regulations that will ensure sustainable use of the reservoir by establishing fishing licences, seasons, and no-fishing zones.
Nakai Reservoir was created in 2008 to supply water to the Nam Theun 2 Hydroelectric Project and has since yielded large amounts of fish to villagers in Nakai District, with fishing becoming the chief means of income on the plateau. “Fishing the reservoir has become a lucrative activity”, says Khamtanh Vattanatham, Fisheries Team Leader at the Nam Theun 2 Power Company (NTPC). “However, it is important that the local authorities and people implement measures to properly manage this resource or the productivity of the reservoir could decline in the future”.
To this end the government has decreed that fishing rights in the reservoir are reserved solely for families that were resettled by the Nam Theun 2 Project, or that fished in the Theun River before the reservoir was created. The Reservoir Management Committee requires all fishing boats to be registered and for daily catches to be recorded and taxes paid on fish sales. “The regulations are in place”, says Mr Khamtanh, “and now everybody needs to work together to make sure they are followed”.
Also at the ceremony, Khammouane Province and NTPC representatives released 45,000 Pa Pak or Silver Barb (Barbodes gonionotus) fingerlings to boost stocks of native fish in the reservoir. At the same time, villagers brought over 450 kg of “ghost nets” to be destroyed. These are nets which accidentally become stuck in trees in the reservoir and can then trap and kill fish under water. Removing them increases fishery productivity and reduces pollution, and NTPC offers Nakai villagers a cash reward to remove the nets from the reservoir. Also destroyed was various illegal fishing gear, including small-mesh nets, spear guns and diving masks.
The Director of the Khammouane Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office, Mr Phomma Phanthalangsy, emphasised the importance of managing fish stocks and protecting the biodiversity of Khammouane Province. “The relevant authorities have conducted community awareness on regulations to protect biodiversity”
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The Nam Theun 2 Power Company (NTPC) is the developer and operator of the Nam Theun 2 Hydroelectric Project in the Lao PDR. The Project is a public-private partnership designed to generate electricity for export to Thailand and domestic use in Laos. Revenues accruing to the Lao government during NTPC's concession period, estimated at over US$2 billion, are to be used to fund poverty alleviation in the country. Nam Theun 2 is structured as an industrial and a development Project, placing great emphasis on protection of the environment and sustainable social programmes to improve the livelihoods of people in the Project area. After 25 years of operation from 2010, the Project will be transferred to the Lao State. See www.namtheun2.com.