Citizen journalism for the Mekong

[Translate to English:] Citizen journalist interviews a man with his smartphone.

The inhabitants of the Mekong region themselves report on the consequences of climate change and life on and with the Mekong. Photo: IUCN

The Mekong River is the lifeline of Southeast Asia, crossing five countries until it terminates in the sediment enriched delta in Vietnam. Millions of people depend on the Mekong for their livelihood – either as a source of water, food or income. The wetlands of the Lower Mekong also reduce the risk of disaster by acting as a natural buffer against flooding, erosion and the effects of extreme weather events such as droughts, tsunamis and landslides.

However, the wetlands of the Lower Mekong are endangered due to an increase in urbanisation, infrastructure development, deforestation and the expansion of agricultural irrigation. Landslides, flash floods and the ingress of salt water, further exacerbated by climate change, are also increasingly affecting the regions’ inhabitants.

Mekong wetlands are threatened by climate change

The project, “Mekong WET: Building Resilience of Wetlands in the Lower Mekong Region through a Ramsar Regional Initiative” is funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and implemented by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It aims to use Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments to understand the habitats, species and livelihoods that are at risk from climate change impacts, and use the results to implement Ecosystem-based Adaptation activities to strengthen the region’s resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Wetlands of the Mekong in LaosA main goal of the IKI project is to highlight wetland ecosystem services and document the negative impacts of climate change, with a goal to raise awareness among national audiences throughout the region. The project developed a citizen journalism training component to achieve this goal. Community members from project sites in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam were trained by professional media teams to film news reports using their mobile phones. The multi-day workshops focused on developing narrative structure and techniques for shooting interviews and collecting audio.

Reports are broadcasted by the media agencies in the news

“Through video reports, local communities can share how they use wetland resources on a daily basis as well as how they deal with climate change impacts such as floods and droughts. They can also share interesting sightings of unique animals or plants. Furthermore, by sharing information more widely through social media and traditional media, citizen journalism can help raise awareness about climate change impacts on wetland resources,” says Chin Madepo, an Apsara TV Channel reporter and workshop trainer in Cambodia.

Media trainingThe reports are then edited by national media agencies and broadcasted on the news, making them accessible to a mass audience. “This training is very valuable because village representatives now have access to national mass media networks. They can capitalise on these networks to share their environmental challenges with a wider audience,” says Keo oudone Julamontry, Deputy Officer, District Office of Natural Resources and Environment, Champhone District in Laos.

The training courses give the Mekong and its inhabitants a voice that will contribute to the protection of the ecosystem – and consequently to the protection of millions of people.