World Wetlands Day 2000 - Turkey

07/02/2000

wwdsticker4e-sm.jpg (7601 bytes)Celebration of World Wetlands Day in Turkey

Address by Tobias Salathé, Ramsar Regional Coordinator for Europe

Celebrating our Wetlands of International Importance

Dear Minister, dear Governor, dear Undersecretary, dear Directors, dear Friends,

thanks for having invited me to be with you today and tomorrow, it gives me a particular pleasure to celebrate World Wetlands Day 2000 in Turkey, in such an important wetland ecosystem as the Göksu Delta Ramsar Site.

2nd February marks the date of the signing of the global Convention on Wetlands in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, not very far from here. Wetlands have important values and wwd2000turkey6.jpg (14047 bytes)provide benefits for the health of ecosystems upon which humans depend. This was and is particularly true in Turkey, a country of large extent, forming a natural bridge between Asia and Europe and also, for many migrating wetland birds, with the African continent. Turkey is blessed with a unique biodiversity, from the Balkans in the west to the Anatolian plateau and the Caucasus in the East, and from the Black Sea coast to the Mediterranean shores where we are gathered today. Wetlands, river floodplains and delta areas enabled people and cultures to settle at many places in Turkey since ancient times. And still nowadays the freshwater resource remains the most important premise for a prosperous modern society.

Tobias Salathé accepting DHKD's wetland conservation award on behalf of Luc Hoffmann and the staff of the Tour du Valat Biological Station.

So it was only natural that Turkey joined the Convention on Wetlands in 1994 soon after the establishment of its Ministry of the Environment. 1995 saw the "International Meeting on Conservation of Wetlands" held in Cappadocia and the production of the very informative booklet "Turkey's Bird Paradises" by the General Directorate for the Environment. The conclusions of the conference are still valid as a useful guideline for further work on wetland conservation and management in Turkey.

During their latest Conference in May 1999 in Costa Rica, the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention adopted the ambitious goal to double the number of Ramsar Sites by the year 2005, at the time of their second next Conference (Resolution VII.11 paragraph 15). To date, Turkey has designated nine wetlands, situated in different regions of the country, as Ramsar Sites of International Importance. Together they cover over 159,000 ha. The Ministry of Environment lists in its publication of 1995 "18 Class A Wetlands": what a unique opportunity to fulfill the above-stated goal by adding nine Ramsar Sites to the existing ones: the Meriç delta (which is already a Ramsar Site in its Greek part), the Greater Menderes delta and Bafa lake, lakes IêÏklÏ, Beyêehir, EÈirdir, Eber, Akêehir, Tuz, and the EreÈli marshes. [Some accented characters have been lost. -- Editor]

I am happy that World Wetlands Day 2000 is celebrated in the Göksu delta, a wetland ecosystem that benefits already since a decade of a very thorough and integrated approach to achieve the long-term sustainable management of its resources, such as the freshwater of the Göksu river, the lagoon fisheries, agriculture, grazing, and coastal tourism. I am looking forward to the implementation of the management plan by the Authority for Protected Special Areas, together with the local authorities and all those people that depend on the delta's resources. The international cooperation for the conservation of the Göksu delta should become a model how to address pressing development problems also at other wetlands in Turkey, notably at the Sultan marshes Ramsar Site, the EreÈli and Hotamis marshes, and at Tuzla lake near the Akyatan lagoon Ramsar Site.

We all realise that we have to develop sustainable ways for water resource management during the coming decades, especially in an arid region such as Anatolia and the Middle East, where water will become an increasingly precious resource for growing human populations and their needs. Hydrological catchment basins are providing human societies with good-quality freshwater. Natural wetland ecosystems play an important function in their water cycles. The Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention have acknowledged this principle in Resolution VII.18 providing "Guidelines for integrating wetland conservation and wise use into river basin management". It is therefore important that water and natural resource managers work together with people from the agricultural and nature conservation sectors to take an integrated catchment basin approach. The intentions to possibly do so in the Konya basin in central Anatolia are very encouraging indeed.

The Ramsar Bureau is pleased to learn that you intend to become more active, not only for wetland conservation inside Turkey, but also in the wider regional context. The Turkish delegation announced for the next meeting of the Mediterranean Wetlands Committee stands as a model for inter-sectoral cooperation, as it will be composed of representatives from the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Forests, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (DSi), and a relevant non-governmental organisation (DHKD). This will hopefully represent the first step to establish a National Ramsar Committee to work towards a National Wetlands Policy, to elaborate integrated management plans (according to the Göksu model) for all Turkish Ramsar Sites and "Class A Wetlands", and to improve the institutional capacities by providing further professional training to the wetland management staff at local and national level.

I am sure that your current international partners, with the support of the Ramsar Convention and its Mediterranean Wetlands Committee, will not let you down. I am indeed informed, that the Greek Wetland/Biotope Centre (EKBY) is prepared to work with you on specific wetland training and management projects. Already the MedWet Team is discussing the best means to approach the large international donors, such as the Global Environment Facility or the European Union, to support wetland activities in Turkey.

Let me conclude by telling you how glad I am to be here at this moment with all its promising aspects for increased cooperation on wetland conservation and wise use. I am sure that inter-ministerial cooperation, with the active participation of the local populations, as I hope we will experience for ourselves tomorrow in the Göksu delta, can provide useful models and lessons to be retained by others. In this context, Turkey might even like to host again an international wetland meeting, for instance of the Mediterranean Wetland Committee in the year 2002 or later.

Thanks for your attention, and let's celebrate our wetlands together during this very special day.

Tobias Salathé
Regional Coordinator for Europe
Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, 1971)

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