Discussions on Kopacki Rit
Visit to the Bureau by a Croatian delegation
Kopacki Rit is a 17,770-hectare Montreux Record site in Croatia, designated as a Wetland of International Importance on 3 February 1993. On 11 June 1997 the Bureau received a visit from a delegation from Croatia, comprising Mr Darko Varga, the Mayor of the Municipality of Bilje (which includes several villages and the Kopacki Rit site), two Municipal Council members, a cameraman, a webmaster, and Mr Righetti from Pro Natura, Switzerland, who coordinated their visit. The Bureau was represented in the discussions by Mike Smart, Tim Jones, Jocelyn Bowden, and Maryse Mahy.
Discussions covered the way in which Kopacki Rit had been managed in the past and how the Municipality plans to manage it in future. Mr Varga explained that the area had been wisely used for more than 100 years until the recent military conflict. Kopacki Rit is currently still under UN control, and most of the members of the delegation are presently in exile, though Mr Varga intends to return to Bilje soon. Since 1992, he and his collaborators (including the reknowned biologist Mr Josef Mikuska) have been educating local people about the need to protect and wisely use Kopacki Rit once they are able to return to the area, and they believe that their ideas are now supported by most local people. They have already been able to prevent the building of a road through the wetland. Their plans include promoting some tourism and creating a public education centre (using multi-media).
The delegation displayed beautiful pictures and a film on Kopacki Rit and introduced their Web site ( http://www.bilje.hr/ ). They described some of the physical damage the wetland has recently suffered, but indicated that the middle of the wetland had not been too greatly impacted because it was inaccessible, though some trees had been cut down.
The Bureau noted that, although Kopacki Rit is on the Montreux Record, it has so far been impossible to organize a Management Guidance Procedure mission to the site. Bureau personnel explained how the Montreux Record operates and described ways in which the Ramsar Bureau might be able assist the Municipality of Bilje in managing Kopacki Rit (by political support, technical exchanges, the Management Guidance Procedure, the Small Grants Fund, and coordination with other sources of funding), whilst pointing out that this assistance must be provided through the Croatian Administrative Authority. A multiagency meeting is foreseen for September or October, involving the Bureau as well as groups interested in the site, most notably BirdLife Switzerland and WWF International.
-- reported by Maryse Mahy, Ramsar Intern