KUNMING, PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA - The Prime Ministers of the six countries sharing the Mekong River today approved a critical initiative to set up conservation corridors connecting important biodiversity areas in the subregion.
In a joint statement in Kunming at the end of their second summit meeting, the six leaders stressed their commitment to protecting shared forest ecosystems as an essential strategy for sustainable development.
"We are determined to protect our natural environment and are committed to use our natural resources wisely," they said. "We congratulate the GMS Environment Ministers for launching the Biodiversity Conservation Corridors initiative and the three-year action plan. This will conserve our terrestrial biodiversity and protected areas in the economic corridors as they are developed."
The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), comprising Cambodia, People's Republic of China (PRC) Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam, holds some of the most important natural forests and biodiversity in the world, including the Asian elephant, Douc langurs, Tonkin snub-nosed monkey and the Indochinese tiger.
The ten-year initiative is part of the ADB-facilitated GMS core environment program. The Initiative has already attracted strong support from the donor community. In preparation for the first phase of the initiative (2005-2008), nine priority areas in the six GMS countries were selected for their biodiversity importance and vulnerability. Within these areas, conservation corridors will be set up at pilot sites to restore and maintain connections between existing national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
Following assessments of the pilot projects, plans will be made for a second, scaling-up phase (2009-2011), in which additional corridors will be developed in the priority areas. A third phase (2012-2014) will focus on consolidating the benefits from sustainable use of natural resources and environmental protection.
As well as restoring habitat connections, the initiative will focus on reducing poverty among communities living in or near the corridors; defining appropriate land-use and management regimes; and involving local communities, authorities, and civil society in protection and sustainable use of natural resources. The initiative will also help secure long-term financing for conservation activities in the biodiversity conservation corridors.