The Evian Water Protection Institutes
Created in 2008, the Evian Water Protection Institutes have facilitated the development of projects between the Ramsar Convention, NGOs and Evian.
Their aim? To assist local populations to manage their water resources independently and sustainably and to protect their biodiversity. Initially planned for 3 years, the programme has been extended to 2013. Thanks to a fund of some € 680,000, several field projects have been developed in collaboration with local populations to support the conservation and rational use of wetlands and their resources. The role of the Convention Secretariat has been to evaluate and select the projects and monitor their progress.
What these projects all have in common is their location within Ramsar zones vulnerable to water management and wetland ecosystem challenges.These sites are important for the many services they provide to humans. The first three projects in Argentina, Nepal, and Thailand began in July 2008 and followed a 2- to 3-year cycle. They were successfully concluded. A fourth project will shortly begin in Japan at the new Lower Maruyama River Basin Ramsar Site at Tai Hamlet.
1. Jagadishpur, a reservoir at the heart of the Himalayas in Nepal
This freshwater reservoir in the Terai region of central Nepal provides irrigation for the lands of more than 10,000 farmers and is a source of fish for an important sector of the local population. Listed as a Ramsar Site in 2003, it is also an Important Bird Area (IBA) for migratory water birds, with more than one hundred different species. Over-fishing, water pollution, resulting from intensive use of chemical fertilisers, and the presence of invasive alien plant species all represent a threat to the lake’s equilibrium and its ecosystem.
Thanks to the Evian Water Protection Institute project, local stakeholders have been made aware of the degradation of this natural resource and a sustainable management plan for the reservoir has been put in place with the authorities, economic actors and local populations. In addition to training activities, a cooperative has been established to diversify the sources of income and support the local economy.
2. Thailand’s Lake Beung Khong Long, vital to fishing and culture
Situated in the north-east of Thailand, Lake Beung Khong is under severe environmental pressure (over-fishing, deforestation and use of chemical fertilisers). Support from the Evian Water Protection Institute, in collaboration with WWF Thailand, has made it possible to improve the sustainable management of the Lake Beung Kong Long Ramsar Site, the quality of its water, its biodiversity and ensure its sustainable use. Communication initiatives, a visitor centre and a “nature” trail have been established.
Furthermore, a long-term management plan for the wetland and a funding programme have been developed with local actors and implemented to reduce over-exploitation of wetland resources, through the development of alternative activities and training of local farmers in farming methods that do not require chemical inputs.
3. The Plata Basin in Argentina, one of the world’s largest freshwater reservoirs
Situated at the heart of the Andes, the Plata Basin is the fifth largest river system in the world; it spans five countries. Thanks to the activities of the Evian Water Protection Institute a field project for sustainable management, with a special emphasis on fishing, has been developed by the communities in the Jaaukanigas and Chaco Plata River Basin Ramsar Sites in collaboration with the NGO Fundación Proteger.
The project has two pillars. The first seeks to develop and implement a management plan for participatory sustainable fishing on the two Ramsar Sites. The second pillar seeks to offer training and raise awareness among local actors to enhance the outcomes of sustainable fishing activities, for example through the creation of a micro-factory for fish packaging. The key to the success of such projects rests in engaging local actors. Thus, women have been trained in sustainable production of fishing products.
4. Restoration of “Satoyama”-type landscapes on the plains of the Lower Murayama River Basin Ramsar Site
This project has two principal objectives: (1) restore the “Satoyama”-type landscapes, home to oriental white storks, on the Lower Murayama River Basin Ramsar Site, and (2) thanks to the restoration of biodiversity, develop sustainable socio-economic projects for local populations at the site. This project is also intended to showcase good practices in the preservation and restoration of “Satoyama”-type landscapes in Japan, by creating a plan for co-management of the Site in close collaboration with the town of Toyoka, NGOs involved similar projects, and indigenous populations.
Photos © Nathalie Rizzotti