The Ramsar Bulletin Board, 3 December 2001

Ramsar's 26th meeting of the Standing Committee begins today. The Standing Committee, which guides the Convention and the work of the Bureau between the triennial meetings of the COP, according to the parameters laid down by the Conference of the Contracting Parties, has arrived in Gland, Switzerland, for its 26th meeting since its founding in 1987. Today and tomorrow, the 3rd and 4th of December, will be devoted to meetings of the Subgroups on COP8, Finance, the STRP, and the Strategic Plan 2003-2008, the purpose of which is to wade through those tangled issues and be prepared to offer clear explanations and recommendations for the full Standing Committee in plenary. The plenary sessions begin on Wednesday, the 5th, and run to Friday. All of the member Parties and permanent observers are present, as well as a significant number of observer Parties, non-Parties, and others. In addition to the regular annual business involving the Bureau's budget and work plan, and timely reports from the Bureau and others on progress in the implementation of the Convention since the 25th meeting (in October 2000), the bulk of the crowded agenda will be devoted to the preparations for COP8 (Valencia, Spain, November 2002) and to the present drafts of a large number of proposed Resolutions, Recommendations, and guidance documents that will be presented to the COP. If time permits, progress reports will appear here during the week, but in any case a summary report will be posted at the end of the meeting and the full report in due course. [03/12/01]

Community-based project at Lake Chilwa, Malawi. Hastings Maloya, Community Liaison Officer, Lake Chilwa Wetland Project based in Zomba, has contributed a brief story on the established of Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) groups to ensure the sustainable use of the lake's resources by wetland and catchment management planning. Here, with a few photos, is his report. [30/11/01]

South Africa names its 17th Ramsar site. The Ramsar Bureau is very pleased to announce that the Republic of South Africa has designated its 17th Wetland of International Importance, effective 16 October 2001. Verloren Valei Nature Reserve (5,891 hectares, 25°17’S 030°09’E), in Mpumalanga Province in the northeast, is a provincial protected area above 2000m altitude comprising more than 30 wetlands (14% of the site’s area), ranging between 2 and 250 hectares, primarily permanent freshwater marshes, with the emergent vegetation waterlogged for most of the season. The area is especially important hydrologically because it acts as a sponge in the upper catchment of important river systems for both South Africa and Mozambique, ensuring gradual release to more populous downstream regions during rainy periods. It supports high botanical diversity and is one of the last areas with suitable Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculata breeding habitat. A variety of wetland types characteristic of the region is represented, and a significant number of vulnerable and threatened plant, butterfly, and mammal species are supported. Population density in the area is low, but farming and grazing occur in the surrounding areas. A management plan, including controlled burning, is in place, employing local people. Small-scale avi-tourism occurs and guided tours are planned. No urgent threats are foreseen, though introduced exotic plant species are being watched carefully.  This welcome addition is the Convention's 1109th Ramsar site, bringing the total surface area to 87,254,670 hectares. [français] [27/11/01]

 European Regional Meeting report is now available. The 4th Pan-European regional meeting, which took place in Bled, Slovenia, 13-18 October 2001, was a major event for wetland policy discussion in Europe -- the agenda papers have been available here for some time, and now the summary report is ready as well. [27/11/01]

 European Geophysical Society 2002 -- call for papers. Drs Philippe Weng and Mike Acreman welcome papers for two wetlands sessions planned for the 4th general assembly of the European Geophysical Society, set for Nice, France, 21-26 April 2002. The sessions are an "open session on eco-hydrology" and another on "wetland management". Further details were posted to the Ramsar Forum and are available here. [26/11/01]

I. R. of Iran designates the Gomishan Lagoon. The Bureau is very pleased to announce that, effective 5 November 2001, the Islamic Republic of Iran, one of the original seven Contracting Parties in 1975, has designated the Gomishan Lagoon (Golestan Province, 17,700 hectares, 37°11’N 053°57’E) as its 21st Wetland of International Importance. The new Ramsar site is a coastal lagoon at the extreme southeast of the Caspian Sea, at the edge of the Turkmen steppe, separated from the sea by a narrow sandy barrier which is frequently overrun by the sea. The site supports three IUCN Red List vulnerable species of waterbirds, i.e., Pelecanus crispus, Aythya nyroca, and Vanellus gregarious, as well as the vulnerable mammal Phoca (Pusa) caspica; it is also an important staging area for the fish subspecies Rutilus rutilus caspicas. More than 20,000 waterbirds have been observed in the most recent 13 years of censuses, and more than 20 species of waterbirds surpass the 1% threshold (Criteria 5 and 6), and 15 fish species depend upon the site as an important source of food (Criterion 8). The government-owned area provides for fishing and hunting, and some livestock grazing, for some 40,000 inhabitants of the region, in parts of the site and its catchment. Caspian sea-level fluctuations have had some adverse effects. A Ramsar SGF-funded study has provided vital management information on species populations.

The new designation follows up on a Ramsar Advisory Mission in 1992 and a Small Grants Fund project in 1996 to prepare for designation, as well as the recommendations of another RAM mission in 1997, which recommended designation as soon as possible. [22/11/01] [français et/y español]

European Space Agency chooses partner for TESEO Ramsar study.  Atlantis Scientific Inc. has recently announced the award of a contract to study new ways to use present and future Earth Observation (EO) satellites to monitor wetlands around the world. This project is part of a set of projects collectively called TESEO (Treaty Enforcement Services using Earth Observation) initiated by the European Space Agency (ESA) within the context of the ESA's General Studies Programme. The ESA project to be performed by Atlantis will focus on information products which can improve wetlands management practices as defined in the Ramsar Convention. The full text of the press release from Atlantis Scientific, with links for more information, is available here. [20/11/01]

Eastern and Southern Africa Subregional Meeting (Lusaka, Zambia, 12-14 November 2001) -- preliminary report. Some 50 participants from nine Ramsar Contracting Parties, seven nations in the accession process, and two of the Convention’s International Organization Partners met in Lusaka for the Eastern and Southern Africa Subregional Meeting, 12-14 November. The meeting undertook a national and subregional evaluation of the implementation of the Convention’s strategic plan and work plan in the region and discussed the challenges ahead. In particular, the participants contributed input to the major tools and guidance currently under development for consideration by the 8th Conference of the Parties, Valencia, November 2002. Special attention was paid to the need to integrate wetland issues into the overall sustainable development effort and to use wetlands as valuable assets for poverty eradication and socio-economic development. It was urged that the Convention include in its future work an action seeking to develop guidelines on prevention and possible responses to emergencies and disasters related to wetlands, in cooperation with the UN system and relevant secretariats. Finally, the meeting, echoing the South American subregional meeting, called upon the Ramsar Standing Committee to consider the desirability of adding socio-cultural and economic benefits and functions to the Criteria for Identifying Wetlands of International Importance, in light of the pre-eminent importance of issues of human uses of wetlands amongst developing countries. A brief preliminary report of the meeting is available here, and so is the full report.

Financial support for the meeting was provided by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida). (20/11/01)

Bhoj Wetland Project wins technical award. The North America Lake Management Society (NALMS), based in Madison, USA, has conferred the NALMS 2001 Achievement award for the year 2001 under the category Technical Merit Award for successful projects to the Bhoj Wetland Project, under implementation in the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, India, on 9th November 2001 during the 21st International Symposium of the North American Lake – held in Madison, USA during November 7-9, 2001. Each year NALMS recognizes individuals, organizations and programs, corporations and projects that have contributed to the society and to the science of Lake and Watershed Management significantly. The Bhoj Wetland Project has been selected in recognition of its efforts and achievements as a cost-effective comprehensive wetland conservation & management project. The Bhoj Wetland Project, i.e. integrated Conservation & Management of Upper & Lower Lakes of Bhopal, commenced in 1995 and was envisaged to be implemented under 15 sub-projects of which 10 have already been completed and the remaining five along with three additional sub-projects approved in 2001 are targeted to be completed by March 2002. Here is a message to the Ramsar Forum which provides more detail, and a photo essay on the project "Economic valuation of Bhoj Wetland for sustainable use", contributed by Dr Mahdu Verma of the Indian Institute of Forest Management in Bhopal. [15/11/01]

Ramsar's Evian Project laid out succinctly. Ramsar fans have long watched wetland conservation events unfold many of which refer to financial assistance from the Evian Project, supported by the private sector Danone Group and the French GEF. Many of those fans have yearned, sometimes loudly, for a single document which summarizes the initiatives and projects that have benefited under the Evian Project, and now here it is. Or rather, then here it was, because, unaccountably, we didn't make this exciting Adobe Acrobat PDF file available to you sooner -- and in fact, it's presently undergoing (minor) revisions by Christophe Lefebvre and the Conservatoire de l'espace littoral, which coordinates the project for Ramsar, France, and Danone -- and when the new version is ready, we promise to get it up here much more promptly. This 444kb PDF file includes a colorful chart showing all parts of the successful and exemplary Evian Project, but be warned, the 8-page brochure is also in a form arranged for the printer, so you'll see page 8, page 1, page 7, page 2, etc. Here it is. [15/11/01]

"Important Bird Areas and potential Ramsar Sites in Europe". At the Ramsar Pan-European Meeting in Bled, Slovenia, October 2001, BirdLife International unveiled its brilliant new report which applies its vast up-to-date data holdings on European wetlands – the 4,000 of them that have been selected as Important Bird Areas under Birdlife’s IBA criteria – to Ramsar’s "Criteria for Identifying Wetlands of International Importance", and identifies 2,083 of them as qualifying for Ramsar status, chiefly but not exclusively under the waterbird criteria, 5 and 6. Nearly 25% of these wetlands have already received Ramsar designation, in whole or at least in part, but many more await government action. Learn more about this exemplary book and about how you can download it or receive a printed copy free of charge, and read the Secretary General's elegant preface, right here. [13/11/01]

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment calls for experts. The Ramsar Convention is closely involved in the design and development of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) which will provide information and guidance on wetland (and other) ecosystems, their status and trends, services to human well-being, and future scenarios and response options for their sustainable management. The MA is also importantly developing sub-global assessment methodologies and demonstration assessments which will provide valuable tools for Ramsar Contracting Parties. The MA is now seeking nominations of social and natural scientists to participate as experts or reviewers in the MA process. The Ramsar Bureau encourages all recipients of this message to consider and nominate appropriate wetland experts for this role, so that the MA's work on wetland ecosystems may be of the highest quality. View this announcement to the Ramsar Forum, 9 November 2001. [12/11/01]

Standing Committee 26 documents are almost all ready. The Ramsar Standing Committee, which governs the Convention on Wetlands between the triennial Ordinary Meetings of the Conference of the Contracting Parties, will soon be holding its 26th meeting since its founding in 1987. With two days of Subgroup meetings on 3-4 December 2001, here in Gland, Switzerland, and three days of plenary sessions, 5-7 December, the delegates will get run right round the block by a very full agenda and a daunting stock of pre-meeting documentation, all in aid of the almost final preparations for the 8th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP8) set for Valencia in November 2002. One batch of documents was posted to delegates on 15 October and the second on 31 October. Today, 9 November, out goes the final batch -- some of them blessedly short, others of them HUGE -- and almost all of them are also now available on this Web site for the general reading public and whomever amongst the National Book Award and Booker Prize judges may finally be willing to rove a bit farther afield than they have done in recent years. It's a startling array of agenda papers, more than 50 of them in total, doubtless daunting for the hapless delegates who must not only read but also master them all (there will be a quiz), but casual readers may pick and choose, let the chaff fly from their fingers and grasp only the grain, and focus on only the most exciting bits. There are, however, no exciting bits, so perhaps casual readers should just focus on the shorter bits. Here is the menu of SC26 documentation. [09/11/01]

Fourth Evian Encounter now in progress. Delmar Blasco, Secretary General, Nick Davidson, Deputy Secretary General, Najam Khurshid, Regional Coordinator for Asia, Sandra Hails, Senior Communications Assistant, and Alain Lambert, Senior Development Advisor, are spending all or part of the week of 5-9 November -- within sight of the Bureau, virtually, on the far side of Lake Geneva in Evian, France -- at the 4th Evian Encounter. Previous Evian Encounters have focused upon the Latin American states and the English-speaking and French-speaking African states, and the fourth Evian Encounter is intended for Arab-speaking nations. After two days of briefing sessions about the wise use of wetlands and the Ramsar Convention's role, the participants will travel to the Camargue in southern France for hands-on experience with exemplary wetland management practices. The Evian Encounters for high-level officials is funded by the Evian Project of the private-sector Danone Group of food products. [05/11/01]

New book on Greece's Ramsar wetlands. Thymio Papayannis, former MedWet Coordinator, reports: "The publication of a new book in Greece on the Convention on Wetlands may be considered as a sign of increased interest in Ramsar of a South-Eastern European country with a mixed track record. Greece has important wetlands, among which 10 Ramsar sites. However, until 1998 all of them faced problems and were included in the Montreux Record. Three of them showed signs of improvement and were removed from the Record during COP7, and efforts are starting for the management of all of them." Here's a description of the new book, and ordering information. [05/11/01]

Uzbekistan joins the Ramsar Convention. The Bureau is delighted to announce that on 8 October 2001 the Director-General of UNESCO received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan its instrument of accession to the Convention on Wetlands, as amended by the Protocol of 1982 and the Amendments of 1987. Uzbekistan is welcomed as the Convention’s 130th Contracting Party, and the Convention in accordance with Article 10.2 will enter into force for Uzbekistan on 8 February 2002. The new Party has named Lake Dengizkul as its first Wetland of International Importance; more information about this new site will be forthcoming in due course. [01/11/01]  [français et/y español]

Ramsar addresses UNFCCC's SBSTA15. On 30 October, at the 15th session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's subsidiary scientific body, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), in Marrakesh, Morocco, Mr Spyros Kouvelis, Ramsar's MedWet Coordinator based in Athens, Greece, addressed the meeting on recent progress in synergistic and parallel work of the two conventions and pointed out possibilities for fruitful cooperation in future. Here is the text of his address. Earth Negotiations Bulletin indicates that "in the ensuing discussion, Parties stressed enhancing cooperation between conventions, strengthening such cooperation at the national level, and furthering the international environmental governance process. Chair Dovland indicated that an informal contact group would be convened to develop draft conclusions." [01/11/01]

Tropical peatlands in the news. The importance of peatlands to national economies and the environment was highlighted 22-23 August 2001 at the International Symposium on Tropical Peatlands, entitled "Peatlands for People", which was attended by over 200 peatland scientists and managers from Indonesia and 10 other nations. During the meetings, the participants agreed the Jakarta Statement on the Importance of Tropical Peatlands, which is reprinted here. In another development, David Lee of the Global Environment Centre in Selangor, Malaysia, reports on the creation of SEA-PEAT, the Southeast Asia Peatland Action Plan and Management Initiative, which is being developed as a regional contribution to the Global Action Plan for Peatlands, which is presently working its way through the Ramsar STRP process towards COP8. [31/10/01]

Ramsar sub-regional meeting for South America - report available. Some 55 representatives of Ramsar Contracting Parties, intergovernmental institutions, and non-governmental organizations gathered in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 10-12 September 2001, for a Ramsar subregional meeting in preparation for the 8th meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties. The meeting was hosted and financially supported by Argentina’s Secretariat for Sustainable Development and Environmental Policy. One important decision of the meeting was to prepare a South American Strategy for the Implementation of the Ramsar Convention, which should be finalized for presentation by Argentina at the forthcoming meeting of the Standing Committee in December 2001. The conference report is available here (in Spanish only).

Unos 55 representantes de los países signatarios de la Convención Ramsar, organizaciones intergubernamentales y organizaciones no-gubernamentales se reunieron en Buenos Aires, Argentina, del 10 al 12 de septiembre, para discutir los asuntos de la sub-región en preparación para la Octava Conferencia de la Partes de Ramsar. La Secretaría de Desarrollo Sustentable y Política Ambiental de la República Argentina fue el anfitrión y patrocinador de la reunión. Una importante decisión del encuentro fue que se prepare una Estrategia Sudamericana para la Aplicación de la Convención de Ramsar, la que sería presentada por la Argentina al Comité Permanente de la Convención en su reunión del mes de diciembre de 2001. El informe final del evento esta disponible. [31/10/01]

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