The 6th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties
Technical Session A:
Wise Use Of Wetlands, National Wetland Policies, And Other National Policies Affecting Wetlands
Chair: Nadra Nathai-Gyan (Trinidad and Tobago)
Vice Chair: Sergei Tveritinov (Russian Federation)
Coordinators: Clayton Rubec (Canada) and Tom Kabii (Ramsar Bureau)
"The Status of Implementation of National Wetland Policies," Clayton Rubec, Canadian Wildlife Service, and Paul Mafabi, Ministry of Natural Resources, Uganda
"Sectoral Policies Affecting Wetlands," Gilbert Simon, Direction de la Nature et des Paysages, Ministere de l'Environnement, France
"The Role Of Private Sector Wetland Experts In Dutch Conservation Efforts," Gerard Boere, Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries, the Netherlands
"The Role Of Land-Use Planning And Regulation In Development Of National Coastal Zone And Wetland Policies", Allan Heydorn, WWF South Africa
"Towards Development of a Wetland Policy in Jamaica," Carla Gordon, Natural Resources Conservation Authority, Jamaica
"Guidelines for the Economic Valuation of Wetlands", Mike Acreman, IUCN, Institute of Hydrology, UK
"Environmental Impact Assessment: Towards Guidelines for Adoption under the Ramsar Convention", David Pritchard, BirdLife International (UK
Discussion of Draft Recommendation 6.9 on National Wetland Policies
- It was noted that National Wetland Policy should be part of national development strategies with multisectoral integration, rather than separate policies less well integrated into the policies of other sectors. A separate National Wetland Policy is not always necessary, but might be included in other national policies, as for example on biodiversity.
Discussion of Draft Recommendation 6.8 on land-use planning & coastal zones
- Concern was expressed about the difficulty of coordinating all of the official bodies that can make decisions in land-use planning; the Conference was urged to think of legal means to consolidate authorities. A number of Contracting Parties submitted amendments to the wording, concerning the 6-meter stipulation, the addition of a catchment/watershed orientation as well as freshwater wetlands and roosting areas, and inshore marine and intertidal areas as well as landward areas.
- It was noted that South African law still permits mining inside Ramsar sites, but there is legislation pending in Parliament that would make provision for the Convention to form part of the law of South Africa. The South African delegation has been asked to submit a recommendation encouraging the Government of South Africa to push forward this pending legislation. A statement from the Conference would be helpful.
Discussion of Draft REC.6.10 on economic valuation of wetlands
- It was cautioned that there will always be the danger that only what can be counted will be counted, and that economic valuation is not a panacea for decision-makers. The multi-disciplinary nature of the analysis should be emphasized, training in techniques should be strengthened, and the use of existing groups instead of creation of a new one should be assured.
- There was considerable discussion about less economically quantifiable factors, such as psychological aspects and amenity, aesthetic, spiritual, cultural and other intrinsic values, and some sense of a need for a methodology with a built-in recognition of wide margins of error. The fear was expressed that just as "wise use" can provide a loop hole for unwise use, so economic valuation might create loopholes, too. Monetizing techniques can be a two-edged sword, since developers operating in developing countries can often easily pay the costs. Several speakers called for wider consultation with NGOs
- Austria expressed its concern for persistent toxins in wetlands and stated its intention of introducing a draft recommendation on that subject. Iceland encouraged that action.
Discussion of Draft Recommendation 6.2 on Environmental Impact Assessment.
- It was noted that the Contracting Parties have a variety of EIA laws already, and the text should be amended to invite input of existing material. The UK supported the draft recommendation and invited co-sponsors, and Australia, noting that it has considerable experience in this matter, recorded its willingness to contribute to this process. It wished to add wording that would leave the option that it might not be necessary for the STRP to do the work itself.
- It was observed that experts carrying out EIAs sometimes compromise professional ethics by being at the service of transnational developers, so that EIAs became a tool against conservation rather than for it. There was considerable concern about potential abuse of the EIA process. One must be wary of EIAs with restricted terms of reference, and it was noted that EIAs of single sites are often misleading without attention to networks of sites. Some felt that discussion of international standards is premature given the lack of resources in many countries. It would be important to draw attention, too, to threats from farther away outside the catchment area.
- The need was suggested for a "rapid ecological evaluation" manual for wetlands and Ramsar sites to study sites threatened by adverse change, supplementary to EIAs.
Rapporteur: Dwight Peck