World Wetlands Day 2008 -- France

05/02/2008

International World Wetlands Day Seminar at Annecy Lake in France

Fifty years ago, the declining water quality and fish catch of Lake Annecy in France led to the creation of SILA (Syndicat Mixte du Lac d’Annecy, www.sila.fr ), a common public structure of the shoreline municipalities around the lake (originally they were 8 communes, now 114 communes in the water catchment have adhered). World Wetlands Day 2008 was the occasion for this organisation, responsible for waste and waste water treatment and for the water quality of the lake, to organize an international seminar together with the UNESCO and World Meteorological Organisation HELP initiative “Hydrology for the Environment, Life and Policy” (more here: www.unesco.org/water/ihp/help/). This was the occasion to bring together a number of scientific experts, Ramsar site, wetland and water catchment managers who are participating in the newly established “wetlands” network of the HELP initiative.

During the seminar, the Ramsar Secretariat introduced the very fitting WWD theme “healthy wetlands – healthy people”, illustrating the strong relationships between healthy, functioning wetland ecosystems and human health, requiring management strategies that support both the health of wetlands and humans, as the costs of poor management can be high. UNESCO briefly recalled the integrated approach of the HELP initiative for catchment-oriented management, through the creation of a framework for water law policy experts, water resource managers and water and wetland scientists to work together on water-related problems through field-oriented, eco-hydrological studies using the drainage basin as a reference.

Representatives from river basins in the Pays de Savoie – Annecy – Mont-Blanc – Léman region (in France), the Fitzroy basin in Queensland (Australia), the Karjaanjoki river basin in southern Finland, the Peipsi-Chudskoe-Psovskoe Lakes basin (shared between Estonia and Russia), the Champlain Lake basin (in the USA and Canada), the Tweed river basin (in Scotland and England), the Naivasha Lake basin (Kenya), Pilica basin (Poland) and Welland basin (England) met from 31 January to 2 February to exchange their experiences with wetland ecosystems in their respective basins and water resources management. Their presentations focused on four themes, namely the scientific approach for wetland monitoring and how to create more awareness about their services, integrated wetland and water resources management, the interface between economic uses of natural wetland ecosystems and their needs, and how to reconcile natural areas, land use planning and societal demands. Finally, they debated and concluded on the way forward to establish a strong network of wetland and water basin managers. An encouraging initiative to coordinate better the work of scientific experts, water and wetland managers, focusing on the socio-economic and natural demands in specific water catchments across the world.

The seminar excursion on World Wetlands Day was the occasion to learn more about the remaining marshes, fens and reedbeds around lake Annecy, their management and the ecological services they provide for a healthy lake ecosystem and the 250,000 inhabitants in the catchment basin. The Alp-Lakes network of Southern Alpine lakes in France, Italy, Austria and Slovenia (co-financed by the European Union Interreg programme) presented their ongoing work (more here www.alplakes.org), notably concerning the sanitary risks of two parasite-based diseases (cercarian dermatitis and bothriocephalosis) disturbing many bathers in these lakes in summer. Finally, this was also the occasion to make the participants aware about the work of the programme focusing on water management in the upper parts of catchment basins Water in Mountain Regions (“L’Eau en Montagne”, more here www.echoalp.com/eau ) and its next international congress planned in the French mountain holiday resort Megève in September 2010.

-- Tobias Salathé

Lake Annecy (in summer)

cercarian dermatitis

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