Grassroots groups unite against unsustainable development in the Gulf of Thailand

Spoon-billed Sandpiper © Zheng Jianping (

Thanks to local fishing communities, one of the most important wintering sites for the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus—Khok Kham, in the Inner Gulf of Thailand—is on its way to Ramsar designation as a wetland of international importance.

Between 1979 and 1996, up to 90% of the mangroves along the Inner Gulf of Thailand were converted to shrimp ponds. But after ten years, the shrimp industry crashed. The decline in fish catch over this same period made many fishermen understand the importance of mangroves, and that a balanced ecosystem is vital to their fishery.

As a result, a local grassroots environmental movement sprang up in the late 1990s. Bird Conservation Society of Thailand (BCST, BirdLife in Thailand) supported this movement from the beginning, with a programme that included frequent visits to schools and other venues by a mobile education unit. Little by little this helped to shape local attitudes, and there are now four Local Conservation Groups (LCGs), working with BCST on the conservation of the Inner Gulf.

The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of the world’s wetlands and maintains a list of sites of international importance. At BCST’s workshops, LCG members learned that Ramsar designation could be a defense against further unsustainable development. Ramsar Site designation in Thailand is a bottom-up process, which can take place only when local communities see the benefits and commit themselves to safeguard their local wetland. The LCGs prepared a petition to Thailand’s Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, requesting that Khok Kham be designated a Ramsar Site. Their petition was welcomed by the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP), the Ramsar Administrative Authority in Thailand. The public consultation over designating Khok Kham as a Ramsar Site has been completed, and a letter recommending the designation will be sent from the provincial governor to ONEP, for their endorsement.


This case study is taken from ‘Empowering the Grassroots—BirdLife, Participation, and Local Communities’. To learn more about this publication and download the report in full click here.

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Compiled: 2011    Copyright: 2011   

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2011) Grassroots groups unite against unsustainable development in the Gulf of Thailand. Downloaded from on 11/12/2023