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THE MEKONG RIVER

The Mekong River is one of the great rivers of the world. Wetlands of the lower Mekong basin are intimately linked with the ecological balance and socioeconomic well-being, nourishing a population of 55 million people of 4 countries : Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam.

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Wetland ecosystems maintain and support vital ecological functions, as well as provide valuable products and services for human activities. The biodiversity of the Mekong wetlands is of international significance, including many unique ecosystems and a wide range of globally threatened species such as Giant catfish, Siamese crocodile, Eastern sarus crane, Giant ibis, and Irrawaddy dolphin.

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Despite their importance, wetlands in the Mekong River Basin have suffered from widespread destruction due to misuses and abuses. Wetlands are threatened by population growth, increased exploitation of biological resources, timber harvest, pollutions of various forms, development activities and mis-management.

Conserving wetland ecosystems and their resources through a better understanding of wetland ecology and the application of ecologically-sound management is urgently needed.

To implement this task, the 4 riparian countries within the lower Mekong River basin need a sufficient number of experts and technical staff who are willing and able to work in the field of wetland conservation. It has been a challenge for Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam to find enough competent native professionals to work on wetlands and on natural resource management in general. It is worthwhile to raise awareness and foster interests in wetland conservation among undergraduate and graduate students of these countries in hopes that those students will get involved in wetland research and conservation practices as they develop their career. There is also a great demand in providing practical trainings in wetland ecology and management for protected areas staff, government officials and other interested parties.

The collaboration among universities of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam is essential, both in effectively providing regional trainings and in improving understanding and cooperation among researchers and educators of the region. The establishment of a network of universities of the region is proposed.

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BACKGROUND OF THE NETWORK

The idea of establishing a formal network of universities within the Mekong region to address the issues of wetland education, research and training has occurred for a long time and has been informally discussed among individual academic staff from different universities in various occasions when their academic paths crossed.

Until 2000, more concrete discussions for the establishment of the network were carried out. Core participants of the network were identified.

The first executive meeting was held in Ho Chi Minh City, hosted by the University of Natural Sciences, Viet Nam National University - Ho Chi Minh City, during 13-15 November 2002 in order to formally create the network. Representatives of the Rectors and Presidents of potential member universities attended the meeting. The main objectives of the meeting were to gather opinions of participating universities about the establishment of the network; to discuss details of network operations such as kinds of trainings, trainee groups, curriculums, academic credit exchange, fund raising, curriculum and logistics of the first training session in 2003; and to draft a Memorandum of Understanding that will be endorsed by member universities of the network.

The second executive meeting was held in Nakhonpathom, Thailand, hosted by Faculty of Environment and Resource Studies, Mahidol University, at Salaya, on 22 May 2003, attended by the representatives of the Rectors and Presidents of member universities, to exchange information and discuss about future cooperations.

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AGREEMENT ON ACADEMIC COOPERATION

On 22 May 2003, the Signing Ceremony of the Agreement on Academic Cooperation of the University Network for Wetland Ecology and Conservation Training in the Mekong Region was held and hosted by Mahidol University at Salaya, Thailand. Agreement on Academic Cooperation between 8 member universities of the network was signed by the representatives of all member universities. The agreement enters into force and shall continue for a period of 5 years. Moreover, the agreement on academic cooperation at the Faculty level was signed by the deans and directors of involving faculties and institutes.

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On 15 February 2008, the Signing Ceremony of the Extended Agreement on Academic Cooperation of this Network was hosted by Mahidol University, Salaya

View Agreement on Academic Cooperation

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GOALS OF THE NETWORK

  • Immediate goal : to jointly provide academic and practical trainings in wetland ecology and conservation.
  • Long term goal : to strengthen the capacity of member universities in establishing complete academic programmes in wetland ecology and conservation.
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PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS

NAME LIST OF EXECUTIVES OF 18 MEMBER UNIVERSITIES & FOCAL POINTS (as of 10 June 2010)
University Executive(s) Focal Point(s)
Royal University of Agriculture, CAMBODIA Rector : Professor Dr. Chan Nareth
Vice Rector : Professor Ngo Bunthan
bunthan_rua@camnet.com.kh , rua@camnet.com.kh
Mr. Von Monin
Dean, Faculty of Forestry, Royal University of Agriculture, Chamcar Daung, Khan Dangkor, Phnom Penh, P.O. Box 2696, Phnom Penh, Cambodia; vmonin@online.com.kh
Royal University of Phnom Penh, CAMBODIA Rector : H.E. Lav Chhiv Eav
Representative : Professor Hang Chan Thon (Vice Rector for International Relations)
caradvchthon@online.com.kh
Mr. Loeung Chanthy
loeungchanthy@yahoo.fr

Mr. Thao Sukunthia
Faculty of Science, Royal University of Phnom Penh, Russian Federation Boulevard, Khan Tuol Kork, Phnom Penh, Cambodia; thaorupp@hotmail.com
National Plateau Wetlands Research Center, Southwest Forestry University, CHINA Director : Professor Dr. Yang Yuming
Deputy Director : Professor Kuang Rongping
npwrcoffice@gmail.com
Ms. Li Shuya
Wetland Environment Education and Training Department National Plateau Wetlands Research Center of China P.O. Box 149, Southwest Forestry University, Bailongsi, Kunming, Yunnan, 650224, P.R. China shuya_li@qq.com
Champasack University, LAO PDR Rector : Dr. Sikhamtath Mitaray
Dr. Phetsamay Virapheth
Mr. Sisomphone Sothavong

spdeuk@yahoo.com Faculty of Agriculture, Champasack University, Km 7, Ban Chatsanh, Pakse District, Champasak, P.O.Box 81, Lao PDR
National University of Laos, LAO PDR President : Associate Professor Soukkongseng Saignaleuth
Representative : Associate Professor Lammai Phiphakhavong (Vice President)
thaolammai@yahoo.com
Mr. Souksompong Pixa
Faculty of Forestry, National University of Laos, Dongdok Campus, Saithany District, P.O.Box 7322, Vientiane, Lao PDR
Universiti Sains Malaysia, MALAYSIA Vice Chancellor : Professor Dato Dzulkifli bin Abdul Razak
Representative : Associate Professor Omar Osman (Deputy Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs) omar_o@usm.my, dvc_stu@notes.usm.my
Professor Dr. Mashhor Mansor
Associate Professor Dr. Che Salmah Md Rawi
Mr. Amir Shah Ruddin

School of Biological Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia; mashhor@usm.my ; csalmah@usm.my ; amirjaws@yahoo.com
Yezin Agricultural University, MYANMAR Rector : Professor Dr. Myint Thaung
Mr. Kyi Win, Director
Department of Agricultural Planning Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation kyiwin@coolpets.net
Dr. Khin Lay Swe
Pro-Rector (Academic Affairs), Yezin Agricultural University, Yezin, Nay Pyi Daw, Myanmar; prorector-ac-yau@cybertech.net.mm , klswe50@gmail.com
University of Forestry, MYANMAR Rector : Professor Khin Maung Zaw
iof-yezin@myanmar.com.mm
Professor Ohn Win
Pro-Rector, University of Forestry, Yezin, Nay Pyi Daw, Myanmar; iof-yezin@myanmar.com.mm
Chulalongkorn University, THAILAND President : Professor Khunying Suchada Kiranandana
Representative : Professor Dr. Supot Hannongbua (Dean, Faculty of Science)
Associate Professor Dr. Nantana Gajaseni
Biology Department, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University, Phyathai Road, Bangkok 10330, Thailand; Mobile : 08 1930 9209 , gnantana@chula.ac.th
Kasetsart University, THAILAND President : Associate Professor Vudtechai Kapilakanchana Dr. Ratcha Chaichana
Department of Environmental Science, Faculty of Science, Kasetsart University, P.O. Box 1072 Kasetsart; 50 Phahon Yothin Rd., Chatuchak, Bangkok 10903, Thailand; fscircc@ku.ac.th
Khon Kaen University, THAILAND President : Associate Professor Dr. Sumon Sakolchai president@kku.ac.th
Representative : Associate Professor Dr. Prasit Prakongsri (Director, Integrated Water Resource Management Research and Development Center)
Assistant Professor Dr. Samang Homchuen
Faculty of Science, Khon Kaen University, 123 Mitraparb Road, Muang District, Khon Kaen 40002, Thailand; samang@kku.ac.th
Mahasarakham University, THAILAND President : Professor Dr. Somsak Chuckpaiwong
Representative : Associate Professor Dr. Pissamai Sriampai (Vice President)
Associate Professor Dr. Usa Klinhom
Faculty of Science, Mahasarakham University, Khamriang Sub-district, Kantarawichai District, Mahasarakham 44150, Thailand; usa.k@msu.ac.th
Mahidol University, THAILAND President : Clinical Professor Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn
president@mahidol.ac.th
Associate Professor Dr. Sansanee Choowaew
Faculty of Environment and Resource Studies, Mahidol University, Salaya, Nakhonpathom 73170, Thailand; enscw@mahidol.ac.th
An Giang University, VIETNAM Rector : H.E. Le Minh Tung
Representative : Dr. Vo-Tong Anh (Dean, Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources)
Dr. Vo-Tong Anh
Dean, Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources, An Giang University, 25 Vo Thi Sau Street, Long Xuyen City, An Giang, Vietnam; , vtanh@agu.edu.vn , votonganh@gmail.com
Can Tho University, VIETNAM Rector : Professor Dr. Nguyen Anh Tuan
Representative : Professor Dr. Le Quang Tri (Vice Rector) : lqtri@ctu.edu.vn
Dr. Duong Van Ni
College of Natural Environment Science, Can Tho University, 3 Thang 2 Street, Can Tho, Vietnam, dvni@ctu.edu.vn
Nong Lam University, VIETNAM Rector : Dr. Trinh Truong Giang : ttgiang@hcm.vnn.vn Dr. Vien Ngoc Nam
Forestry Faculty, Nong Lam University, Linh Trung, Thu Duc, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; drvnnam@gmail.com
University of Science, Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City, VIETNAM Rector : Professor Dr. Duong Ai Phuong daphuong@hcmuns.edu.vn Dr. Tran Triet
Dean, Faculty of Biology, University of Science, Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City, 227 Nguyen Van Cu, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, ttriet@gmail.com , ttriet@hcm.vnn.vn
Tay Nguyen University, VIETNAM Rector : Associate Professor Dr. Nguyen Xuan Thao Associate Professor Dr. Bao Huy
Head of Department of Forest Resources & Environment Management (FREM), Tay Nguyen University (TNU) No 567, Le Duan Str., Buonmathuot City, Daklak Province, Vietnam; baohuy.frem@gmail.com ; http://www.socialforestry.org.vn
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AREAS OF ACADEMIC COOPERATION

The 8 universities will support the network in the following areas.
  1. Development and operation of joint practical training courses in wetland ecology and conservation
  2. Capacity building for establishment of complete academic programmes in wetland science in member universities of the network
  3. Collaboration in wetland research, education and communication projects
  4. Collaboration in research and education on other scientific and technical areas of mutual concern
  5. Exchange of scientists and students
  6. Regional wetland conferences and consultations.
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METHODS

Each member university shall make every endeavour to facilitate and support the joint efforts and activities of the network by searching for sources of financial support; providing working places; providing resource persons; promoting advisement; exchange of professors, researchers, scientists and students; and mutually recognising student performance.

Cooperation on Faculty level is possible. Individual affiliated faculties can declare the desire to cooperate on the implementation of the agreement through the Plan of Activities approved by their respective deans and directors.

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TRAINING ACTIVITIES

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THE NETWORK'S WEBSITE

It has been agreed among member universities that a website of the network will be developed and maintained by the Faculty of Environment and Resource Studies, Mahidol University ( http://www.en.mahidol.ac.th ). The purposes of the website are to maintain communication within the network and between the network and outside world; to keep all member universities, trainers and trainees, and other interested parties, in close continuous contact, informed and accessed to the up-to-date information of the network. Wetland related information can be provided and shared via the website..

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JOINT RESEARCH ACTIVITIES

  • Management of alien invasive species in wetlands (under consultation)
    Mimosa pigra
    Problems and threats to wetlands due to the invasion and impacts of Mimosa pigra seemed to be an increasingly serious issues for all countries in the lower Mekong River basin. Following up the first training course, trainers and trainees identified a mutual interest on this issues and decided to undertake a joint research activity together. Initiation and plan for a joint research of the network on Mimosa pigra is at a preparatory stage .
  • Urban wetland ecology and management (under consultation)
  • Upland wetland ecology and management (under consultation)
  • Sustainable use of non-timber forest products from wetlands (under consultation)
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ACADEMIC EXCHANGE

Since 2002, a number of visits and exchange of invited lecturers among member universities of the network has been made. It is expected that during the next 5 years period of this network agreement, there will be more visits and exchange of lecturers, researchers and students among member universities.

For the academic year 2004, there is a potential that a number of trainees of the first training especially from Lao PDR and Cambodia will be accepted to further their study at postgraduate level (MSc in Natural Resource Management International Programme) at the Faculty of Environment and Resource Studies, Mahidol University, a member university of the network.

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LONG TERM BENEFITS

The University Network for Wetland Ecology and Conservation Trainings in the Mekong Region has several unique characteristics. Its operating activities can contribute to education for sustainable development due to the following reasons.

  • The network provides education and trainings on wetland ecology and conservation. Wetland ecosystems and their resources are contributing to subsistent livelihoods, food and water security, and sustainable development of rural economy of the Mekong region.
  • The establishment and operation of the network takes into account a river basin-based approach i.e. the Mekong River Basin. A river basin is an appropriate unit for addressing the wetland management issues and integrating wise use of wetlands into the basin development plan and sustainable development of the whole river basin. A river basin is also an appropriate unit for wetland education, research and trainings as well as communication and public awareness.
  • The prioritised target trainees of the network's training activities are junior lecturers and researchers of member universities. In the future, they will be an important task force in wetland education, research and trainings region-wide. Each member university benefits in the long term through capacity building of its academic staff.
  • The network training activities require minimal expertise from outside. Trainers are selected and drawn from member universities within the region. Trainings are provided using the most out of available expertise, experience, as well as teaching facilities of member universities.
  • The network operates regional training activities, using key wetland ecosystems of the Mekong region as natural laboratories for the trainings. Course contents are field-oriented and emphasize on hands-on exercises. Trainees have a holistic view and insight of wetland ecosystems within the Mekong region. They also have opportunities to share their knowledge and experience with colleagues from other riparian countries and learn from each other.
  • The results of the first training course evaluation indicated that trainees were satisfied with the course contents, provided course materials, trainers, delivery style, and logistics. The length of the course was appropriate. Most trainees would like to attend the next trainings to be held in other 3 riparian countries in the following years. It is possible and considerable for the network to produce 25 wetland scientists who would have a holistic experience and expertise of wetlands of the Mekong Region during 5 years term of agreement, or produce 25 wetland educators and researchers per year.
  • The university network enhances the network among individual academics, therefore strengthens the capacity and enhances cooperative efforts in wetland communication, education, and public awareness within the Mekong region.
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KEY CONTACTS

Dr Sansanee Choowaew
Programme Director (Natural Resource Management)
Faculty of Environment and Resource Studies
Mahidol University
Salaya, Nakhonpathom 73170 THAILAND
Tel : 66-2441-5000 ext. 1240
Fax : 66-2441-9509

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