The Ramsar Convention's Small Grants Fund 1997 Allocations Report

04/02/1997

Ramsar Small Grants Fund for Wetland Conservation and Wise Use (SGF)

Allocations Report for 1997 

 Background

The Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention has established the Ramsar Small Grants Fund (SGF) with a view to providing assistance for wetland conservation and wise use in developing countries and countries with economies in transition. The wise use concept was defined as "the sustainable utilisation of wetlands for the benefit of humankind and compatible with the maintenance of the natural properties of the ecosystem". The SGF Operational Guidelines for the Triennium 1997-1999 put emphasis on the implementation of the Ramsar Strategic Plan 1997-2002, and thus the objective(s) of projects should relate to the general and operational objectives of the Strategic Plan. Under the Fund, emergency assistance can be provided to Ramsar sites which have suffered damage or are in imminent danger of damage. Countries which have signalled their intention to join the Convention may apply for preparatory assistance to support activities necessary for the designation of the first site to be included in the List of Wetlands of International Importance.

1997 Allocations

The last Conference of the Contracting Parties (Brisbane, Australia, 1996) decided that all countries on the List of Aid Recipients established by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shall be eligible to receive assistance from the Ramsar SGF. Thus, the number of recipient countries having increased considerably, a record number of 83 proposals underwent a technical review by the Bureau technical and policy staff using the Project Proposal Review Form approved by the 1996 Standing Committee meeting, in most cases with input from external experts from partner organisations and/or members or alternates of the Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP). Of these, 55 projects were considered suitable for funding, and the Bureau’s analysis and recommendations were submitted for approval by the Standing Committee at its 20th meeting, 29 September to 3 October 1997. Priority was given to countries that are Contracting Parties; moreover, the Standing Committee decided that only one project per country could be supported. Available resources in 1997 were sufficient to fund 29 projects in an equal number of countries, for a total amount of SFR 1,104,840. The funding of this significant number of projects was possible thanks to an increased core budget allocation and, most importantly, to generous voluntary contributions from Denmark, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland .

Summary Description of Approved Projects

Algeria

The grant of SFR 40,000 will support environmental education and extensive awareness campaigns for the general public, schools, local authorities and other parties with interest in the "Lac des oiseaux". This site, which is part of the El Kala wetlands, although not a Ramsar site, is an important habitat for waterfowl and other fauna and flora. Numerous birds - including some rare species - nest in this area. Planned activities include meetings, television programmes and elaboration of school materials and posters, in collaboration with the authorities of El Kala National Park and the El Tarf forest conservation unit. In past years, the "lac des oiseaux" has suffered from continuous degradation due to sewage disposal, construction of a road and uncontrolled use of the site as a recreation area by the inhabitants of the nearby community. The final objective would be the creation of an "Association des amis du lac des oiseaux" (Association of friends of the lake) which would promote the wise use of the lake with the participation of all people concerned.

Armenia

The proposal from Armenia was awarded funding of SFR 35,000 for the restoration and rehabilitation of Lake Sevan Ramsar site. Artificial increase of the outflow since 1991 has seriously disturbed the ecological character of the basin of this lake. Most of the waterfowl habitats, such as small lakes, ponds and marshes, were drained and the number of birds decreased. More than half of the species stopped nesting at all, and the still existing habitats are also threatened. The SGF grant will help to identify the most important waterfowl nesting areas and develop an action plan for their rehabilitation and restoration, including the wise use of the lake through effective management of fishery. Public awareness and education programmes are also planned. A detailed management plan based upon the Ramsar Guidelines is in preparation, to provide the framework for the SGF work.

Brazil

The Marine State Park of Parcel de Manuel Luís in the State of Maranhao was created to preserve one of the southernmost Neotropical coral reefs. Since 1993, the State Office of Environment and Water Resources has been developing and carrying out research activities in the region, with the support of the Maranhao Federal University. The results are the mapping and classification of the coral reef and the characterisation of its geographical, environmental and biological factors. The allocated SFR 40,000 for management actions at State Marine Park of Parcel de Manuel Luís will help carry out two main objectives: The first, to make a more detailed characterisation of the reef, in order to establish norms and rules that will be included in the management plan of this conservation unit, and the second, to begin studies on the relationship between the coral reef area of Parcel de Manuel Luís and the mangrove areas of the Reentrancias Maranhenses Ramsar site in order to extend its boundaries and include the coral reef area.

Bulgaria

SFR 35,000 were granted for the development and implementation of a management plan for Lake Srebarna. Because of the outstanding biodiversity of the lake, it was already declared a Strict Nature Reserve in 1948. Lake Srebarna is one of the four breeding areas of the Dalmatian pelican in Europe and is also the habitat of five globally threatened bird species. In 1975 it became a Ramsar site and in 1977 a Biosphere Reserve; in 1983 it was designated as a World Heritage Site and in 1989 identified as an Important Bird Area. Lake Srebarna has been on the Ramsar Montreux Record since 1993 due to changes in the water regime and uncontrolled vegetational succession. Since then, considerable efforts have been undertaken to restore and rehabilitate this important nature reserve. The National Wetland Plan has identified the development of a management plan as a high priority, including monitoring and restoration activities. The principal objective of the project will be the removal of the site from the Montreux Record.

Burkina Faso

The Fund will provide SFR 20,000 to Burkina Faso, with a further contribution of SFR 20,000 from the institution "Oiseaux Migrateurs du Paléarctique Occidental - OMPO" (Migratory Birds of the Western Palearctic), to strengthen the sustainable management of the country’s wetlands. The SGF grant is part of a large project whose main objective is the training of 30 activity leaders/census takers chosen from among the local communities concerned, thus creating a human resource base to support the authorities in their efforts to implement the Ramsar Convention. This core group will carry out the yearly bird census and follow up on ecological issues for the three Burkina Faso Ramsar sites and seven other wetlands. An approach to a decentralised management of wetlands, including the local communities, will be tested to ensure a better policy for the wise use of natural resources. Public awareness campaigns are a further objective of this project.

Chile

In order to develop a National Strategy for the conservation of wetlands, Chile has been allocated SFR 28,300. Seven sites are currently included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. In 1994, the National Wetland Council was created, with representatives of governmental and non-governmental bodies as well as universities. The main task of this Council consists of analysing and implementing the recommendations of the Ramsar Convention, developing projects for the management of wetlands and elaborating a National Strategy for the conservation of wetlands. The need to organise a workshop for the drafting of such a Strategy has become urgent. Participants will come from political, technical and scientific backgrounds, and it is hoped that the workshop will result in a document that will serve as an instrument to be included in the national and local policies for the conservation and management of natural resources in Chile.

China

The Dongzhaigang National Nature Reserve in the Hainan province is one of China’s six Ramsar sites. The importance of its biodiversity – mangrove forests and intertidal wetlands – led to its designation as a Provincial Nature Reserve in early 1980 and as a Ramsar site in 1992. The area is probably the best remaining area of mature mangrove forests in China and is of primary importance for wintering and migrating waterbirds, including globally threatened species such as the black-faced spoonbill, the Chinese egret and the Saunder’s gull. It also provides significant resources for more than 4000 families living around the Bay. In March 1997, international experts assessed the status of the mangrove forests and their management. The Reserve is primarily managed for ecotourism, but few resources are invested in staff training, protection and general management. The granted SFR 40,000 will help to build the capacity of the Forestry Bureau of Hainan to develop and achieve conservation and wise use at Dongzhaigang through training, community outreach and local participation; provide urgently needed staff training in management planning and wise use concepts; assist with the development of a 5-year management plan; carry out public awareness campaigns, and update the information of this Ramsar site.

Comoros

With the long-term aim of rehabilitating lake Dziani Boudouni, the country’s only Ramsar site, through a management plan, the project was approved for SFR 20,000. Lack of financial resources and equipment have so far impeded national authorities from assuring the monitoring and preservation of this important lake, which is threatened by clearing for cultivation, cutting of trees and overgrazing by cattle belonging to farmers of the village of Itsamia, on the very shore of the lake. The main objective of this project is the development and implementation of a management plan aiming at the wise use of natural resources of the area and the encouragement of the local communities, and in particular women, to participate actively in the whole process of restoring and conserving this wetland and thus maintaining its ecological character. The participation of the private sector will also be encouraged. It should be underlined that village associations for the protection of environment, called "Ulangua", have in the past carried out significant activities for the preservation of lake Dziani Boudouni, but have been discouraged by the lack of support on behalf of the authorities concerned. Activities will also include monitoring of the site, development of public awareness information materials, also for tourists, and establishment of signals and a botanical nature trail in the forest.

Costa Rica

A sum of SFR 40,000 was authorised to develop a management plan for the protection of the Mata Redonda wetland and its designation as a Ramsar site. Mata Redonda has been a National Wildlife Refuge since 1992 and is part of a complex wetland ecosystem in the lower basin of the Tempisque river, of which Palo Verde Ramsar site is also a component. People from local communities keep cattle in the Mata Redonda wetland - as they used to in Palo Verde - which by trampling and eating the vegetation ensure spaces of open water attractive to birds. Fish and invertebrates are abundant, and the site is vital for colonial nesting birds in the region as well as for wintering/migratory species. In order to ensure an efficient protection of Mata Redonda, the necessary infrastructure and legal actions have to be set up, which requires ecological evaluation of the area; analysis of the legal situation of the Refuge and surrounding zones; revision of its legal status with regard to land possession; preparation of audio-visual materials in collaboration with local communities and national authorities, and organisation of workshops for public awareness.

Ecuador

In 1995, Ecuador received a grant for developing an inventory of the wetlands in two coastal provinces, for which a final report has been received. The 1997 allocation of SFR 34,700 will facilitate the second part of the national inventory of wetlands, namely in the Guayas and El Oro provinces. There is a lot of pressure on these interior wetlands through drainage, over-exploitation of resources, and pollution. The inventory will provide new information on their current conservation status and assist in developing and implementing management policies and activities. As with the 1995 project, after compilation of all the new data, workshops with national specialists will be organised to identify wetlands of national and/or those of international importance which fulfil the Ramsar criteria. These wetlands will then be evaluated by the National Directorate of Protected Areas and Wildlife according to practical conservation criteria, and be included in the National System of Protected Areas and/or be designated as Ramsar sites. The results of this project will be published and widely distributed among local, regional and national institutions.

Egypt

Wetland areas in Egypt are diverse and extend from the northern lakes Manzala, Bardawil and Burullus (the latter two of which are Ramsar sites) to the southern part through the Nile River. Ambitious development projects, claims for agricultural land and fish farms, and the construction of the coastal highway along the Mediterranean coast of Egypt will have an impact on the Ramsar sites. SFR 40,000 were approved for the application of a wetland evaluation technique to Lake Bardawil, and relevant information specific to the uses and resources of the area will be collected. These include fishing, tourism and hunting, biological resources such as birds, mammals, fish, aquatic plants, hydraulic and hydrologic data (water levels and flows) and ecosystem components data. The analysis of all these collected data will provide an assessment of the functions and values of Lake Bardawil leading to the application of an evaluation technique. It should also be underlined that a Management Guidance Procedure will be carried out at this lake in 1998 with the final goal of removing the site from the Ramsar Montreux Record.

Estonia

A grant of SFR 32,000 was approved for the integration of conservation and wise use in the management of the Matsalu wetland Ramsar site. Natural values of the wetland range from wilderness to semi-natural communities. Its flora includes approximately 700 species, 50% of which are listed in the Red Data Book of the Baltic Region. Over 260 bird species nest or migrate through the area, of which about 150 are listed in the Red Data Book. The shores of Moonsund and Matsalu Bay include over 3000 hectares of coastal meadows formed by interaction between hydrological conditions and human use. The wetland’s forests are mainly former wooded meadows; small patches of wooded meadows are still in use, and in order to preserve their very high biodiversity this use must continue. Objectives of the project include integrating conservation and wise use of the area’s natural resources through maintenance of traditional mowing; local development and planning with the active participation of local communities and the private sector; maintaining the ecological character of this Ramsar site and full implementation of the management plan.

Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine

SFR 25,000 were awarded to establish a Transboundary Ramsar Wetland Area in the Upper Tisza Region, a project area of approximately 15,000 sq.km that is situated in the border territories of these four countries. The project was prepared by the Tisza Klub for Environment and Nature in Hungary, which is also responsible for its implementation, and was endorsed by the four respective Ramsar Administrative Authorities. The mountain ecosystems of the area include virgin forests, alpine meadows, cave formations, streams, cascades, peat bogs, highland marshes and mineral springs. Typical habitats of the lowlands include floodplains, backwaters, shoals, gallery forests, marshes and marshy meadows. The mountain regions have been among the most important sites for traditional human land use. In the interest of nature protection, maintenance of biodiversity, and the enhancement of international cooperation, the project aims at the following goals: 1) additional site proposals by the interested parties (study and evaluation of existing data in each partner country; creation of computerised maps and database; preparation of two supplementary Ramsar Information Sheets by Slovakia and Ukraine; publication of a book in English with Ramsar Information Sheets and information on the ecological conditions of the Upper Tisza); 2) public awareness campaigns (press conference; wide distribution of the above-mentioned book; a four-language poster; numerous articles for local, national and international newspapers). After completion of the background materials, these will be sent to the relevant governmental institutions enabling them to take the official steps for the establishment of the Transboundary Ramsar Site.

Israel

The Hula Nature Reserve is one of Israel’s two Ramsar sites. A sum of SFR 40,000 was authorised for the conservation of the endangered Imperial and Spotted Eagles wintering in the Hula Valley. In the 1950s, the valley was drained for agricultural purposes and only a small area was preserved as the Hula Nature Reserve. In recent years, the valley has been intensively developed for agriculture and is also a popular tourist site. In 1992, 100 acres of the valley were reflooded, and presently the Hula Valley, including the nature reserve and the reflooded area, is one of the most important migrating and wintering sites in the region for more than 200 species of birds, several of them endangered. The SGF grant will improve the conservation of the Imperial Eagle and Spotted Eagle wintering in the Hula wetlands. The ecological requirements of the two species will be studied as well as the impact of intensive agriculture and tourism on the wintering populations. Local farmers and decision-makers will be involved in the project and an educational programme for local youth will be established. In the future, a management plan will be developed, in cooperation with local authorities, land owners and developers.

Malaysia

The Asian Parties to the Ramsar Convention have been active in promoting regional and subregional cooperation for the effective implementation of the Convention in the region. A series of regional meetings have been organised since 1991 which have contributed to international cooperation and have helped to set up frameworks for national actions. They have also proved important in advancing various priorities adopted at Meetings of the Contracting Parties. A proposal has therefore been put forward to establish a mechanism in the Asian Region for the effective implementation of the outcomes of the Brisbane Conference of the Parties (1996), and in particular the Ramsar Strategic Plan. The granted SFR 40,000 will help to coordinate and support this objective through contacts of the regional Ramsar representative with each Party to encourage them to prepare a national plan for implementation of the Strategic Plan. A Regional Meeting of the Asian Contracting Parties will be held to discuss national progress, to develop a strategy for international cooperation in its implementation and design, and promote pilot activities. Information exchange and joint awareness programmes for World Wetlands Day will be developed and a mechanism set up for monitoring progress and reporting to the 1998 Standing Committee meeting and the 1999 Conference of the Parties.

Mauritania

In 1991, Mauritania was one of the first Ramsar recipient countries when it received a grant (SFR 45,000), under the then Wetland Conservation Fund, in support of a study for the development of ecotourism compatible with conservation in the Banc d’Arguin National Park. This project was successfully achieved in 1996 and resulted in an ecotourism strategy adapted to the configuration of the Park and the needs of the local communities. The 1997 project, approved for an amount of SFR 40,000, is a follow-up on the first project and aims at the development of ecotourism in the Banc d’Arguin National Park. Activities to be carried out include pilot tours with travel agents with experience of collaboration in the field of protected areas; accompanying local communities to help them identify an active participatory role for monitoring, reception of tourists and management of resources; a workshop on ecotourism with all people concerned; training workshops in the villages of the Park whose inhabitants will be leading actors in this project; an investment programme for acquisition of equipment and their use, such as new tents, sightseeing boat, stalls for sale of products, and sewing, handicraft and fishing materials. A competent person will be hired to animate and coordinate the activities that are most urgent, supported by a network of people in each community.

Mongolia

Mongolia is the only non Contracting Party to receive a grant this year; however, the country has since then adhered to the Convention. The SFR 25,000 will help Mongolia to promote the objectives and activities of the Convention, in particular to identify other potential sites to be included in the List of Wetlands of International Importance. Mongolia is rich in water resources despite its low rainfall: cold, deep ultra-oligotrophic lakes to temperate saline lakes, with many major floodplains in three drainage basins. These wetlands are the habitat of fish, including several endemic species, and of around 50 breeding species of waterbirds, including the threatened Dalmatian Pelican, four species of cranes, the Relict Gull and thirty-five migratory birds. A national workshop was held in September 1997 to assess the current status of wetland biodiversity in Mongolia. The main objectives of the project are to undertake a detailed assessment of waterbird distribution, populations and conservation priorities in the Great Lakes Depression, including the Hars Us Nuur National Park, to ascertain its suitability for nomination as a Ramsar site; to build capacity of the National Park staff in wetland/waterbird inventory techniques by on-site training and extend this training to students of the nearby university of Hovd, and to complete the Ramsar Information Sheet for Hars Us Nuur National Park for designation to the Ramsar List.

Namibia

An allocation of SFR 40,000 was authorised for an inventory, classification and management plans for Namibia’s wetlands. None of the four Ramsar sites currently has a management plan, and actions are only taken when and where perceived necessary. There is, therefore, an urgent need to draft plans in order to ensure coherent and objective directed management of the wetlands. The project will consist of two coinciding phases: a "desk" phase and a "field" phase. Plan outlines will be drafted in consultation with all interested and affected parties, and will be discussed at meetings with the site managers. At the same time, field trips will be undertaken to the sites to get first hand experience and to update maps. Final products will consist of management plans, each one containing a "field guide" and a reference guide with detailed information on all aspects of the site, such as species lists, site history, etc., as well as maps and public information materials which will be reviewed and updated every three years.

Panama

SFR 40,000 were granted to Panama for the monitoring and protection of shrimp populations in the Punta Patiño wetland (Ramsar site) and surrounding areas in the Darién province. This project aims at obtaining information for the evaluation of the current situation of shrimp fishing in the whole area, in order to ensure conservation and wise management of this marine resource of vital commercial importance. Fishing in the Punta Patiño Nature Reserve and surrounding areas is qualified to be industrial and traditional; no information, however, is available on the vital cycle and population structure of the exploited shrimp species, nor any details on species, volume, fishing method and tradition, number of boats, fishermen, shrimp buying points, and seasonal variations. Maps will be developed showing the distribution of shrimp species in the different phases of their life cycle. Active participation of the local communities will be an important objective, aiming at their training on the conservation and wise use of these natural resources and making them aware of their role as impacting and regulating entities of the environment.

Papua New Guinea

It has been calculated that at least one third of Papua New Guinea (PNG) may be classified as wetland. In addition to diverse types of wetlands, PNG is rich in wetland species, especially waterbirds, endemic fishes and corals. Wetlands provide many benefits, such as export earnings, personal income and livelihoods for the local people, but these wetlands are now facing threats from catchment changes, pollution, mining and exotic species. The Department of Environment and Conservation is the lead agency for conservation and promotion of wise use of wetlands in PNG but it has inadequate technical skills and resources for that work. SFR 40,000 will enhance the Department’s capacity through desk and field-based training which is linked to other Ramsar obligations and will generate tangible benefits. The main results will be a wetlands team in the Department with increased expertise, including field survey techniques and management; improved project management capability, and increased capability of PNG to implement the Ramsar Strategic Plan.

Peru

To support the participatory elaboration of the Master Plan of Junín National Reserve Ramsar site, SFR 36,000 were granted to Peru. After Titicaca lake, the lake of Junín is the second biggest lake in Peru. In 1974, the area was established as a National Nature Reserve to protect its fauna, flora and beautiful scenery, and it was designated as a Ramsar site in January 1997. It is not only important as a bird habitat, with around 125 species , including the endemic Junín Grebe, but has traditionally been a working and living source for the rural populations in its surroundings (cattle grazing, cultivation of Andean species, fodder and medicinal plants). Furthermore, lake Junín is a particularly representative example of a natural, or almost natural, wetland with landscapes and ways of living that are characteristic of the aquatic environment of the Andean region. Mining pollution, over-exploitation of resources, intensive grazing and extraction of species are currently threatening the native fauna and flora. Although the site has been a protected nature reserve for more than 20 years, it has no management plan, and the elaboration of such a Master Plan with the active participation of local communities and other interested parties is of utmost importance. Assignment of administrative staff and park rangers is of equally urgent importance for the safeguarding of this significant Ramsar site.

Romania

In 1996, the Ministry of Waters, Forests and Environment Protection established the "National Strategy for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Romania". The study of Romanian wetlands in preparation for new Ramsar sites for which SFR 25,000 were approved supplements this Strategy, especially its section on data management for decision-making and wise use of the studied wetlands. The National Strategy also concluded that the designation of many of the sites as protected areas was subjective, and the SGF project will provide an objective tool for decision-making in selecting areas that meet the national or international criteria. Thanks to the data base that will be set up after finalising the necessary field investigations, the need for further studies as well as the designation as protected areas can be decided. Administrative decisions for the designation of sites to the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance will thus be facilitated and hastened.

Russian Federation

A sum of SFR 35,000 was granted to develop and implement management plans for three wetlands of international importance (Ramsar sites) in the Volga and Kuban Deltas. The 32 Ramsar sites designated in September 1994 have so far not been provided with adequate protection. At present there is no national wetland policy in Russia and no comprehensive management plan exists for any site. This project is designed as a pilot programme to develop management plans for one Ramsar site in the Volga Delta and two sites in the Kuban Delta that will serve as model areas for wetland management planning in Russia. These three wetlands have been studied intensively in the last years, and the amount of information collected allows the detailed compilation of all sections of the plans. A network of wetland experts, which was established for inventory work, will now carry out the evaluation of the wetlands’ functions and values, identification of important features, formulation of long-term and short-term management objectives, etc. Action Plans for wise use of wetland resources are to be developed on the basis of a system of economic incentives to promote sustainable use and disincentives for nonsustainable use of wetlands. Dissemination and replication of results will be provided to the other Ramsar sites in Russia.

Slovak Republic

The objective of this project is the restoration of wetlands along the Morava river, for which SFR 35,000 were granted. The Morava floodplains are one of the seven Slovak Ramsar sites. They preserve a unique system of oxbow lakes, wet meadows and floodplain forests with high biodiversity (for example, about 30 bird species of European importance, 6 rare amphibian and 3 reptile species). Legal protection of the territory started in 1989; however, intensive water works, begun in the last century and reaching their peak in the 1960s (such as change of water regime for the sake of amelioration and irrigation, including the building of new canals), did not take into consideration the fundamental ecological functions of water courses as natural biotopes. This resulted in the loss of both biological and landscape diversity and possibly of economic assets such as fish, game, honey, basket-making, etc. The situation has been improving in recent years thanks to the Regional Territory System of Ecological Stability, which was approved in 1994, and the GEF Biodiversity Protection Project that was implemented in 1993 for the whole Záhorie region, which includes the Morava river. Restoration of this wetland will improve habitats (quantity and quality) for nesting and wintering waterfowl of European importance.

Slovenia

Slovenian wetlands have undergone many human-induced changes and are listed as one of the most threatened ecosystems in the country. However, wetlands are one of the priority habitats to be conserved within the general framework of nature conservation in Slovenia. Information on these areas is scattered around the many organisations that are interested in wetlands from different perspectives. As a result a comprehensive inventory of Slovenian wetlands does not exist and wetland policy has never been considered. The main objective of this project, for which a contribution of SFR 35,000 has been authorised, is to provide the most comprehensive National Wetland Inventory and will be the starting phase of an integrated wetland programme. Identification of priority sites in need of urgent action, establishment of planning, management and monitoring schemes, will result in systematic mapping of Slovenian wetlands, necessary for the successful implementation of a Wetland Conservation Policy.

Sri Lanka

SFR 40,000 will be used for improving visitor facilities and increasing awareness in the Bellanwila-Attidiya Sanctuary, located in the southeastern outskirts of Colombo. The area is reputed for the large number and variety of wildlife, especially birds, and is an important roosting site for herons and egrets. The marsh was included in the Directory of Asian Wetlands in 1989, thus unofficially obtaining the status of a "wetland of international importance". Although it is not a Ramsar site, it is reputed for its high biodiversity value and was declared a Sanctuary in 1990. The environmental degradation of the area is caused by water pollution, garbage dumping, land filling, inadequate visitors’ facilities and a general lack of public awareness. A Working Group has been established to identify priorities. To attract visitors to the Sanctuary, there is an urgent need for improvement of facilities and public awareness of the value of the marsh as well as development of the ecotourism potential of the area. The proposed project will form part of the Bellanwila-Attidiya Management Conservation Plan and will be carried out through the Working Group in cooperation with the Department of Wildlife Conservation, with the assistance of the IUCN Sri Lanka Country Office.

Suriname

A preparatory assistance grant of SFR 25,000 has been made to Suriname to support preparation for the development of a rational management system for the North Coronie Wetlands. Some 90% of the population of Suriname lives in the coastal area, which is threatened by economic development (increasing oil exploitation, rice cultivation, etc.), and the North Coronie region is especially vulnerable because of its fragile coastline. Inadequate land use and conversion of the coastal wetlands could result in the breakdown of the natural protective functions of this ecosystem, such as storm protection and flood control. There is no management plan so far for the North Coronie District, which consists of wetland habitats interspersed with narrow, sandy ridges. Freshwater from the extensive swamps flows via specially constructed canals directly into the Atlantic Ocean, causing poor mixing of freshwater and sea water and consequently diminishing the nursery/breeding functions of the estuary. SGF funds will provide the means to government authorities and local communities for establishing a management plan, for providing guidelines for land-use and economic development, and finally for recommending that this part of the Coronie District be designated as a Multiple-Use Management Area. Designation for the List of Wetlands of International Importance of adequate areas meeting Ramsar criteria will follow.

Tunisia

The Nature Reserve of Dar Fatma peatland in the northwestern part of Tunisia was created in 1993. The Reserve, situated on state forest estate, is unique in Tunisia, for this rare biotope is the habitat of mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and insect species as well as some 150 plant species including those which cannot be found in the rest of the country. The peatland is threatened through degradation of its infrastructure and overgrazing by cattle of neighbouring farmers, thus contributing to a change in its ecological character. One million waterbirds spend the winter in Tunisia, and many used the Dar Fatma wetland as an ideal migrating and hibernating place because of its abundant flora, water and geographical location. Now, however, the site has lost its capacity to receive European migratory birds such as geese, ducks, flamingos, and coots, and urgent measures have to be taken to ensure the conservation of the whole area and to maintain its ecological character. Management of this wetland lying in a forest zone needs to consider various basic principles aimed at the wise and sustainable use of the natural resources of these ecosystems. The approved SFR 40,000 will help to conserve and protect this rare biotope and allow the construction of an information and research centre for scientists as well as the general public.

Zambia

The Wildlife Conservation Society of Zambia, supported by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, will set up a pilot Wetlands Outreach Programme in the Kafue Flats, one of the two Ramsar sites in Zambia. The area includes national parks, game management areas and open areas. The Wetlands Outreach Programme, for which SFR 38,400 were authorised, will especially focus on promotion of local awareness and action concerning the cultural, ecological and economic value of wetlands. Currently there is inadequate education and awareness about Zambia’s wetlands, how they function and how they relate to the broader goal of sustainable development. The Programme includes guiding study tours into the area, producing educational materials, launching a radio programme, organising meetings and training workshops, and compiling an inventory of income-generating activities which have an impact on the natural resources of the region. This will be the basis for promoting community participation and action in sustainable development and environmental rehabilitation, such as stimulating discussion of environmental problems, development of ecotourism at a local level, thus also reducing poverty among the communities. Follow-up will be a community and private sector-supported Wetlands Outreach Programme in ecotourism, community services and public information generation.

-- reported by Annette Pavlic, Programme Assistant
for the Ramsar Small Grants Fund

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