"To facilitate and coordinate the implementation of applied geoscience programmes in East and Southeast Asia in order to contribute to economic development and an improved quality of life within the region."

The 2nd CCOP-DMR-UNESCO Symposium on Developing Geoparks within East & Southeast Asia Region

The CCOP Technical Secretariat, in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Bangkok and the Department of Mineral Resources of Thailand (DMR), has successfully co-organized the 2nd CCOP-DMR-UNESCO Symposium on Developing Geoparks within East & Southeast Asia Region-Geoparks in Mekong Countries on 22-24 July 2015 at Sima Thani Hotel in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.  The meeting was attended by 65 participants from CCOP Member Countries, including 1 from Cambodia, 5 from Republic of Korea, 1 from Lao PDR, 1 from Myanmar, 2 from Philippines, 1 from Vietnam, 3 UNESCO resource persons, 48 local participants in Thailand and 3 CCOP TS staff.

Aiming to bring together sub-regional, national and international geopark experts for a common sense of geoparks, geoheritages and sharing national issues/experiences of geopark application and development, the technical seminar was held with a two-day seminar in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand and one full-day field trip to visit geosites and non-geosites with potential to develop geoparks in the region.

During the first day, after the opening ceremony with welcome speeches by DMR, UNESCO and CCOP, keynote lectures by UNESCO experts from France, Ireland and Thailand were presented on aspects of Geopark with example on successful applied geopark sites worldwide. Then the meetings created an open forum for CCOP member countries to share national issues, experiences and to collaborate on developing geoparks in the region. Country reports were presented by representatives of Cambodia, Republic of Korea, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

On the second day, a discussion session followed with focus on how CCOP member countries should prepare Geopark application dossiers in their own, in collaboration with the others and with guidance by UNESCO Geopark experts. The plenary discussion session was chaired by Dr Patrick, concentrating on a common sense on geoparks, aspiring geoparks and related definitions. On his experiences on dossier preparation and geopark development, Dr Patrick strongly recommended member countries not to use the term “national geopark” for naming the sites which are aspiring to be UNESCO geoparks. The plenary discussion also raised the questions and answers for sharing experiences on developing Geoparks in the region and cooperation opportunities. After the plenary discussion, the meeting was divided into 3 groups for discussing issues on procedures and experiences on preparing Geopark application dossiers, network development and collaboration.

After the two-day technical seminar, a full-day excursion was arranged for all UNESCO, CCOP and DMR participants to visit the Khorat Fossils Museum and potential geopark sites, including Morjabok potholes, Sikhio sandstone quarry and Khao Yai Thiang mountaintop at Sikhio and Sakaerat Environmental Research Station at Pak Thong Chai. Four heritage sites in Nakhon Ratchasima have been chosen for the field excursion program including three geological sites, three archeological sites, one natural site and one fossil museum. The sites reveals outstanding importance situated on the southwest margin of the Khorat plateau with a succession of rock formations from the oldest Permian to the younger Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous and to Cenozoic respectively. The site Morjabok potholes consists of over 80 potholes in the Cretaceous sandstone, Phu Phan Formation. The potholes have diameters ranging from 40 to 250 cm with 30 to 200 cm. in depth. These potholes are good evidence that there was a river in this area with enough strong current to creating this pothole geomorphologic landform. The site Sikhio Sandstone quarry is a sandstone outcrop belonging to the Cretaceous Phu Phan Formation. It had been cut into blocks of various sizes for Khmer temple constructions in Sung Noen between 9th and 13th centuries A.D. or about 800 - 1,100 years ago. Khao Yai Thiang mountaintop is a hilltop where the Electricity Authority of Thailand (EGAT) dug a large pond as a part of the pumped-storage hydroelectric power plant together with some wind turbines. The river down below the hill, Lamtakong river, is considered to be an antecedent stream being in this area prior to this mountain range has been built. The terrain has been gradually uplifted whereas the stream has gradually cut down the mountain chain forming a V-shaped water gap as seen nowadays. This mountain range has been built under the gently tilted rock formations forming spectacular cuesta topography. The forth stop, Sakaerat Environmental Research Station in Pak Thong Chai is an ecological site, a natural forest covering the area about 821 square kilometers consisting of deciduous dipterocarp and dry evergreen forests with 486 wildlife species. It is recognized as part of the International Network of Biosphere Reserve in 1977 by decision of the Bureau of the International Coordinating Council of the Programme on Man and the Biosphere, UNESCO. The final stop, Khorat Fossil Museum is in an area about 32 acres. It is mainly consisted of two sections, exhibitions and research. The exhibitions are in three buildings for petrified woods, fossil mammals and dinosaurs. The research section is composed of works on dinosaurs and other reptiles and mammals. Paleobotany is also included on both petrified woods and palynology. The Khorat Fossil Museum is regarded as a hub for researchers and students in the fields of paleontology and geology.

In sum, by attending this symposium, the participants benefited much from the keynote lectures and country reports, share issues of concern and experiences to deal with Geopark application dossiers and Geopark development, discuss and foster future collaboration works in the East and Southeast Asia region. Taken together they demonstrate the growing concern that is being given to issues such as Geopark common sense, role of local community in geopark development and dossier application, and also to finding effective measures to enhance the institutional capacity of the state managers in geopark development. Participants enjoyed meeting and excursion, found it informative and especially appreciated their ideas, commitments on cooperation opportunities between UNESCO and CCOP Member Countries in the field of geopark management and development. It is proposed for training course on Geopark for member countries and similar workshop and/or technical seminar on specific issues in geopark dossier preparation to be considered for continuously organized in the region, in order to enhance the national capacity of state management and strengthen the cooperation among CCOP Member Countries, in connection with UNESCO.

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