Strengthening Wetland Management: Insights from the Regional Flyway Initiative Workshop in Bangladesh in May 2024

©️ Sakib Ahmed_IUCN Bangladesh

From 27 to 29 May 2024, the Regional Flyway Initiative (RFI) Training Workshop on Wetland Ecosystem Services and Nature-based Solutions in Bangladesh was held at the Grand Sultan Tea Resort & Golf in Srimangal, Moulvibazar, Bangladesh. Hosted by the Bangladesh Forest Department, the workshop was co-organised by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), East Asian–Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP), BirdLife International, IUCN Bangladesh, SCOPE Foundation, the University of Southampton, and the National University of Singapore, with the aim of bolstering the capacity of wetland managers, policymakers, and conservation practitioners.

The workshop’s primary objective was to deepen participants’ understanding of wetland ecosystem services and the methods to assess them. Through stakeholder consultation and consensus-building processes, the training workshop sought to define site boundaries for priority RFI sites, identify habitat types, recognise ecosystem services, and address local challenges. This workshop marked the fourth in a series of RFI training workshops, following successful events in the Philippines, Cambodia, and Thailand in 2023. Ms Yoon Lee, the External Relations Manager, participated in the workshop on behalf of the EAAFP Secretariat.

Day 1: Overview of the RFI and Ecosystem Services Assessment

The workshop began with welcome remarks from the co-organisers, including Mr Jiangbo Ning from the ADB, Ms Yoon Lee from EAAFP, Dr Gary Allport from BirdLife International, Mr Sayam U. Chowdhury from SCOPE Foundation, and Mr Shaikh Muhammad Mehedi Ahsan from IUCN Bangladesh. In her address, Ms Yoon Lee emphasised the critical role of Bangladesh’s wetlands, which span approximately 6.8 million hectares and serve as vital habitats for migratory birds from regions such as Siberia, Mongolia, and the Tibetan Plateau. She highlighted the necessity of conservation efforts to meet climate change and biodiversity targets and support economic development through Nature-based Solutions.

Ms Yoon Lee, External Relations Manager, EAAFP © Sakib Ahmed_IUCN Bangladesh

The workshop continued with an overview of Flyways in Bangladesh, presented by Mr Imran Ahmed, Conservator of Forests, Wildlife & Nature Conservation Circle in the Bangladesh Forest Department, and Mr A. B. M. Sarowar Alam, Programme Manager, Species and Habitats, IUCN Bangladesh.

Following the overview, three representatives from RFI co-organisers introduced the RFI. Mr Duncan Lang, the RFI Team Leader and Senior Environment Specialist at ADB, provided an overview of the RFI. Ms Yoon Lee presented an overview of EAAFP Flyway Network Sites in Bangladesh and potential contributions of the RFI towards achieving the EAAFP Strategic Plan 2019-2028. Lastly, Dr Ding Li Yong from BirdLife International gave a technical briefing on the site selection process and its methodologies.

Mr Duncan Lang the RFI Team Leader and Senior Environment Specialist at ADB ©Sakib Ahmed_IUCN Bangladesh

On behalf of the government, Mr Md Amir Hosain Chowdhury, Chief Conservator of Forests, Bangladesh Forest Department, delivered a remark.

Mr Md. Amir Hosain Chowdhury, Chief Conservator of Forests, Bangladesh Forest Department ©Sakib Ahmed_IUCN Bangladesh

(From left to right) Ms Yoon Lee (EAAFP), Dr Gary Allport (Bird Life International), Mr Md. Amir Hosain Chowdhury (Chief Conservator of Forest, Bangladesh Forest Department), Ms Karen Ochavo (ADB), Mr Duncan Lang (ADB), Mr Md. Sohel, Rana (ADB Resident Mission in Bangladesh) © Sakib Ahmed_IUCN Bangladesh

Summary of Workshop Sessions

Session 1: Introduction to Wetlands Ecosystem Services and Valuing Nature

Dr Kelvin Peh from the University of Southampton explained the concept of ecosystem services, their economic valuation, and introduced the TESSA (Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-Based Assessment) tool. He stressed the importance of establishing baseline conditions and the use of multiple tools to ensure comprehensive ecosystem assessments.

Dr Kelvin Peh, University of Southampton © Yoon Lee, EAAFP

Session 2: Tools for Assessing Ecosystem Services (online)

Dr Stefano Barchiesi from BirdLife International discussed the advantages and limitations of various tools used in ecosystem service assessments, emphasising the need for careful selection based on specific site requirements.

Session 3: Assessing Ecosystem Services

Dr Radhika Bhargava from the National University of Singapore presented an analysis of carbon assessments for RFI sites. Dr. Stefano Barchiesi via an online recording continued with a presentation on coastal protection and water-related services.

Session 4: Steps in Assessing Wetland Ecosystem Services

Dr Evelyn Pina-Covarrubias from the University of Southampton led a session on the steps involved in assessing wetland ecosystem services, highlighting the importance of considering both ecological and social boundaries.

Day 2: Advancing Knowledge and Practical Insights

The second day began with a recap of the previous sessions led by Dr. Ding Li Yong. The focus then shifted to identifying alternative states for RFI sites and exploring potential future scenarios under existing threats.

Breakout Sessions

Participants engaged in group discussions to report on findings related to ecosystem services, pressures, and threats. This collaborative approach fostered a deeper understanding of site-specific challenges and potential solutions.

© Yoon Lee, EAAFP

© Yoon Lee, EAAFP

Session 5: Natural Capital Potential and Financing Opportunities for RFI sites

Ms Caroline Missen, the Chief Sustainability & Growth Officer from Cultivo gave a virtual presentation on the creation of investable nature projects through high-quality carbon and biodiversity credits. She emphasised the importance of engaging the private sector and leveraging public finance to develop sustainable conservation projects.

Mr Duncan Lang, RFI Team Leader and Senior Environment Specialist, ADB © Yoon Lee, EAAFP

Session 6: Stakeholder Mapping and Capacity Development

Mr Billy Fairburn from BirdLife International led a virtual session on stakeholder analysis, exploring current and potential roles in wetland management. Participants assessed capacity needs and identified areas for development to enhance overall wetland conservation efforts.

Day 3: Field Visit in Baikka Beel, Hail Haor (FNS 106)

The final day featured a field visit to Baikka Beel, which was declared as a sanctuary for fishing and birding in 2003.

Baikka Beel is a wetland of approximately 170 hectares located in the eastern part of Hail Haor (FNS 106) near Sreemangal, a tea-growing town in Moulvibazar District, about 200 km northeast of Dhaka. On 1 July 2003, after a detailed planning process, the Ministry of Land decided to reserve it as a permanent sanctuary. Since then, it has been a safe haven for fish and an excellent habitat for birds and other wildlife. It is one of the most accessible important wetlands for birdwatchers and nature lovers to visit.

A visitor centre and two observation towers enable visitors to get good views of the beel, its resident wildlife, and winter visitors, including some of the 170 species of birds recorded here up to the end of 2012.

Visitors can commonly see Little Cormorants, Indian Pond Herons, and flocks of lanky, white egrets, especially Great Egrets and Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Purple Herons, Oriental Darters, Great Cormorants, Bronze-winged Jacanas, Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Common Moorhens, Purple Swamphens, Black-headed Ibises, Ruffs, Spotted Redshanks, Marsh Sandpipers, Grey-headed Lapwings, and Black-winged Stilts.

Adapted from source: Brochure ‘Baikka Beel Sanctuary, Hail Haor’

This visit provided practical insights into community-based resource management. Participants learned about the site’s biodiversity, community involvement, and the importance of sustainable tourism practices.

© Yoon Lee_EAAFP

© Md. Amanat Ullah, Centre for Natural Resources

© Yoon Lee, EAAFP

Meeting with Baikkal Beel site managers and divisional officers © Sakib Ahmed_IUCN Bangladesh

© Yoon Lee, EAAFP

Outcomes and Future Directions

Key takeaways from the three-day workshop were as follows:

  1. Enhanced Understanding: The workshop provided valuable insights into the assessment and valuation of ecosystem services, highlighting the importance of using appropriate tools and methodologies.
  2. Stakeholder Engagement: Effective wetland management requires the involvement of diverse stakeholders, including local communities, government agencies, local NGOs, and international organisations such as IUCN, BirdLife, ADB, and EAAFP.
  3. Sustainable Financing: Developing investable nature projects and leveraging both public and private finance are essential for long-term conservation success.
  4. Collaborative Efforts: The workshop underscored the need for continued collaboration and knowledge-sharing among stakeholders, not only within the country but also along the flyway, to address shared challenges and achieve conservation goals.

The “Regional Flyway Initiative Training Workshop on Wetland Ecosystem Services and Nature-based Solutions in Bangladesh” was a significant step towards strengthening wetland management capacities. By providing a collaborative platform for mutual learning and capacity building, the workshop facilitated the sharing of knowledge and best practices among the national stakeholders and RFI partners. The outcomes of the workshop will undoubtedly contribute to the ongoing efforts to protect and manage wetland ecosystems across the East Asian–Australasian Flyway, ensuring the conservation of these vital habitats for future generations.

© Sakib Ahmed_IUCN Bangladesh

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