World Wetlands Day 2008 -- France and Germany


French-German WWD event in Strasbourg

The French Region Alsace hosted an important WWD event on 2 February 2008. Danièle Meyer, councellor of the regional government, and Frédéric Deck, president of the NGO Alsace Nature, welcomed the 80 or so participants in the modern regional governmental building in Strasbourg. State secretary Friedlinde Gurr-Hirsch, of the Ministry for Food and Rural Areas of the Land (Region) Baden-Württemberg, heading the German delegation in the bilateral event, underlined in her opening address the important catalytic role of the Ramsar Convention in triggering ecological restoration measures and bilateral projects (for the full text in German, see Jean-Marc Michel, head of the French Ramsar administrative authority in the Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development, stressed France’s commitment to use Ramsar site designations and the guidelines provided by the Convention to further sustainable development in wetland areas.

Indeed, the event was mainly convened to celebrate more than 15 years of transboundary cooperation in the Upper Rhine (Rhin supérieur, Oberrhein) floodplain area, triggered originally by a French-German summit between the Environment Ministers Ségolène Royal and Klaus Töpfer in 1992. WWD 2008 served to present the substantial transboundary work achieved since and still continuing in the fields of public participation, biodiversity conservation (Natura 2000 network of protected areas of the European Union), ecological improvement of navigation arrangements, river flow and groundwater management, floodplain restoration, and sustainable urban, leisure and tourism development. The participants agreed on a time plan to crown these efforts with the designation of a Transboundary Ramsar Site by the time of Ramsar COP10, covering the natural parts of the Rhine floodplain (nearly 50,000 hectares remaining after the important channelization and drainage works in the 19th century) along the 160km river stretch between Basel and Karlsruhe.

The audience used this opportunity to learn about the experiences made in a similar programme of transboundary cooperation in the similarly densely populated and intensively used river floodplains of the Danube-Morava-Dyje confluence shared by Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia (cf. caxref:4962), before splitting into two working sessions to focus on sustainable ways of floodplain habitat management and eco-tourism development. This was followed by the opening of an exhibit on migratory fish between the Rhine and the North Sea (salmon, trout, eel, lamprey and others) and the presentation of different conservation projects focusing on the different wetland types associated with the Rhine. Raising their glasses for the bilateral cooperation in Rhine floodplain, the participants agreed to meet at WWD 2009 on the German side, and thanked Edith Wenger (former Ramsar STRP member) and her colleagues from both sides of the Rhine for their efforts to bring this Ramsar cooperation to fruition.

-- Tobias Salathé, SRA for Europe

Danièle Meyer, Alsace Regional Councellor, and Gérard Burkard, President of the NGO Saumon-Rhin, opening the exhibition on migratory fish in the modern entrance hall of the Maison de la Région Alsace in Strasbourg, France

Friedlinde Gurr-Hirsch, Baden-Württemberg State Secretary for Food and Rural Areas, addressing the audience, listened to by Danièle Meyer, Alsace Regional Council, hosting the event, and Jean-Marc Michel (with earphones), French Ramsar authority in the Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development

Early spring impression in the floodplain forest fed by many groundwater springs.

Additional photos of the Rhine floodplain by Christian Meyer

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