Creating reservoir wetlands for fisheries and other ecosystem services

Water reservoirs are never impounded for fisheries per se but increased fish production is often promoted as an important secondary benefit – a provisioning service - of reservoirs created for hydropower, irrigation or water supply. Often this increased fishery is presented by dam proponents as a benefit for local people that will, at least in-part, compensate them for the disruption to their livelihoods caused by the dam construction. However, reservoir fisheries often fail to live up to expectations. The principal objective of this project is to improve local livelihoods by enhancing fisheries through the construction of small wetlands within the drawdown zone (i.e. below the full supply level (FSL)) of a reservoir. The premise is that these wetlands will create more diverse habitat and provide refuges and breeding areas for fish when the reservoir is drawdown. This in turn will lead to greater fish production within the reservoir, reduced fishing effort, increased catches, improved returns and greater livelihood benefits. By creating new environments it is anticipated the wetlands will enhance other ecosystem services, improving the livelihoods and increasing the resilience of local communities. The Theun Hinboun Hydropower Company (THPC) are partnering on the project. The study is required to provide an evidence base that will convince senior management of the company and its board of directors to proceed with the construction of two wetlands with the aim of helping the company satisfy requirements to improve the livelihoods of resettled communities. In 2014 and 2015 we have been proceeding with the studies required to prove that the wetlands are feasible and can bring real livelihood benefits, particularly for women. We will present the evidence to THPC senior management in October this year. We are collaborating with WorldFish who are conducting a study on the livelihoods of resettled communities in the vicinity of the Nam Gnoaung Reservoir and who have conducted baseline surveys of the reservoir fishery. In 2015 we will produce a joint research report with WorldFish entitled: Creation of reservoir wetlands to improve livelihoods in the Nam Gnouang Reservoir, Lao PDR.