Examples of nature-based solutions being applied across Asia

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Ambassador Masahiko Horie, IUCN Regional Councillor, introduced the IUCN “Deploying Nature-based Solutions to Address Societal Challenges” session by providing an overview of the impact of natural disasters in Asia.  

The economic cost of natural disasters can be overwhelming, however experience has shown that preemptive disaster risk reduction (DDR) is highly cost effective, with conservative estimates indicating that for every dollar spent on DDR, up to seven dollars is saved on recovery efforts. Natural infrastructure can reduce hazard impacts and vulnerability to disasters, are locally accessible and low cost. Contrary to common perceptions, employing nature-based solutions can contribute to economic development through provision of jobs and there can be benefits associated with improved community resilience, biodiversity conservation, climate change impact mitigation and carbon storage.

Examples from the Nepal earthquake

Mr. Yogendra Chitrakar, the Director of the Environment Campaign and Conservation Awareness (ECCA) and Chair of the IUCN Nepal National Committee, presented the lessons and opportunities arising from the catastrophic Gorkha Earthquake in April. In the aftermath of the earthquake, many communities were dependent on resources from forests for materials for rebuilding critical infrastructure, emphasising the importance of the natural environment for community resilience, but also the need to manage impacts on the natural environment following natural disasters. During the earthquake, ECCA and other groups provided support for people affected by the earthquake in many ways, both in the immediate term and in the longer term. In addition to humanitarian and development assistance, organisations provided assistance to maintain environmental protection activities during this vulnerable period.

Examples from the Japan tsunami

Ambassador Horie then presented standout lessons from the 2011 tsunami in Japan. New approaches to DRR are being trialed. In particular, based on experiences in 2011 some communities are proposing to establish coastal parks which provide multiple lines of defense between residential areas and the coast including levies, rows of elevated green belts and a sea wall. In implementing these projects, obtaining consensus from the affected communities is critical. The 2011 earthquake stimulated the promulgation of a new law for National Resilience which, based directly on the concept of ‘nature-based solutions’ championed by IUCN, promotes land uses which take advantage of ecosystem-based disaster mitigation functions. Japan is also implementing the Sotoyama Initiative to value ecosystem services and provide this information to decision-makers and policy-makers.

Organic shrimp in Viet Nam

Mr Hien Phan, the Investment Director of Minh Phu Seafood Corporation, Vietnam, presented the collaboration between Minh Phu and IUCN. Through Mangroves and Markets, Minh Phu has been sourcing organic shrimps from within the Nhung Mien Forest in the Mekong Delta. The mangroves provide a range of important functions, including natural recruitment of black tiger shrimp and protection from tidal erosion. Minh Phu supports households to produce certified organic shrimps which are of higher quality and yield than factory shrimps by providing training and a guaranteed premium. The role of the mangroves as shrimp nurseries provides communities with an incentive to protect and restore mangroves. The project is currently supporting 741 households, and aims to support all households in the forest by 2020.

Coastal and marine areas of Thailand

Dr Pinsak Suraswadi, the Director of the Marine and Coastal Resources Research Institute in Thailand, presented Thailand’s new approach to managing coastal erosion, which is a significant problem in Thailand. Many of the impacts currently experienced are the result of poorly planned development or erosion prevention activities in the past. Historically, prevention activities typically comprised of the ad hoc installation of hard infrastructure which destroyed the natural environments and scenic nature of the landscape and potentially resulted in catastrophic flow-on effects causing severe erosion elsewhere. Approaches have changed over time, and recent legislation enables flexible erosion control measures which aim to protect coastal and marine environments rather than just the physical coastline or specific infrastructure. The legal framework provides the option to integrate nature-based solutions for coastal protection purposes.

Blue economy

The blue economy concept was presented by Ambassador Saida Muna Tasneem, the Bangladesh Ambassador to Thailand and Cambodia, and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN ESCAP, Bangkok. The sustainable development paradigm has, until now been primarily terrestrial, however a ‘blue economy’ approach to sustainable use of marine resources gained momentum following the 2010 Ri20+ and has been integrated into the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Oceans are critical to all countries for many sectors, including transport, food, energy, employment, minerals, health and leisure, and the challenge is how we can use ocean resources sustainably without undermining their potential to continue to provide these services. The Ambassador expressed hope that IUCN will play a catalytic role in concluding a global treaty on sustainable use of our oceans to consolidate the blue economy principles.

The session concluded with a discussion from the members, who raised a range of issues related to the implementation of nature based solutions throughout the region and in different environments. Support was also expressed for using the blue economy concept to promote transboundary agreement on ocean resources.

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