The Ramsar Bulletin Board, 3 May 2001

News from the 'Swiss Grant for Africa'. It's a little known secret that, since the establishment of the Ramsar secretariat in Switzerland in 1988/9, the Federal Government of Switzerland has been making available to the Bureau a voluntary contribution of more than 100,000 Swiss francs per year, in addition to its regular contribution to the Convention's core budget, earmarked to support the implementation of the Convention in Africa. Summary annual reports on the use of these funds seem regularly to have been made to the Swiss Government, but for some reason they have never been brought before the public -- which is a pity, because taken together they contain a wealth of information about the progress of wetland conservation and wise use in that continent. In an effort to remedy this oversight, the Bureau has established an index page for Swiss Grant annual reports and begun populating it, so far with reports on funded projects in 1998 and 1999. Watch for more annual reports and occasional news items into the bargain. [03/05/01]

Draft Ramsar Strategic Plan for 2003-2008 available for comment. In mid-March 2001, the Bureau communicated to the Parties by diplomatic channels for comment the 3rd draft of the Strategic Plan 2003-2008, which in some form or another will eventually be adopted by the 8th meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties in November 2002, superseding the successful Strategic Plan 1997-2002. The draft Plan is available on this Web site in English, French, and Spanish, and comments, corrections, rewrites, alternative draft Plans, even flames and ridicule can be offered by everybody up to 30 May 2001. After that date, interested parties will be forced to comment on the 4th draft instead. [03/05/01]

Agenda papers and pre-meeting documentation for the 4th European regional meeting on the Ramsar Convention. Beginning now, and progressing in the coming months. [01/05/01]

Russia reports on Kamchatka project. The Ramsar Small Grants Fund project "Development of a monitoring programme and draft management plans for the Ramsar sites located on the Kamchatka Peninsula" (1998) has been successfully accomplished, providing management plans and ensuring improved protection of four Ramsar sites in Russia. The management plans have been elaborated according to the Ramsar guidelines for management planning and contain the information about the state of biological diversity and nature resource users for Ramsar sites Parapolsky Dol, Moroshechnaya River, Utkholok Cape and Karaginsky Island. An inventory of the wetlands and evaluation of natural resources was carried out, and an economic valuation of the natural values of the area provide the following figures (in USD) - the estimated cost of vertebrate animals alone in Parapolsky Dol Ramsar site is 21.0 million, Moroshechnaya River - 37.5, Utkholok Cape is 27.5 million USD and estimate reaches 60 million USD in the Karaginsky Island Ramsar site. The official protection status of the sites was enhanced when documents regulating economic activity in the sites and their protection, as well as determining the site boundaries and area, were prepared and approved by the Administration of the Koryak Autonomous Area as a result of the project. The project was supervised by Prof. Vitaly G. Krivenko of the Research Institute for Nature Conservation (a Ramsar Award winner in 1999) and implemented by the Centre of International Projects of the State Committee on Ecology of Russia and the Centre of Study of Eurasian Migratory Animals. See a bit more here. (reported by Inga Racinska, Ramsar). [02/05/01]

M. Tiéga sinks in Niger. Devoted members of the Anada Fan Club will be delighted to learn that, thanks to Mr Denis Landenbergue of WWF's Living Waters Campaign, the Bureau is able to supply poignant photos of the Regional Coordinator for Africa steeling himself in a creaky boat [left] for sinking deep into a proposed Ramsar site in Niger, and then celebrating his narrow escape afterwards. Prepare yourself. [26/04/01]

News from the UK: new Ramsar policy statement for Wales. Following on from the UK Government's policy statement on Ramsar sites in England, issued on 14 November 2000 (reprinted here), Ms Sue Essex, Minister for the Environment, took the occasion of World Wetlands Day 2001 to issue the National Assembly for Wales' policy statement for Ramsar sites in Wales. Like its precursor, the statement lays out the present policy and legal situation of Ramsar sites and their relation to Natura 2000 sites and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), and it describes the government's expectations in terms of management and development decision-making at all levels concerning Ramsar wetlands, including multi-sectoral consultation. In general, the policy accords Ramsar sites the same protections found in the EC Birds and Habitats Directives; amongst other interesting features, the policy supplies guidance on such key Ramsar issues as Article 2.5 on "urgent national interest" and Article 4.2 on compensation. The policy statement for Wales has been reprinted here, with permission, in its English and Welsh versions. [25/04/01]

Ramsar Award winner 1999 takes Goldman Environmental Prize for 2001. Dr Myrsini Malakou, who received one of the Ramsar Wetland Conservation Awards in San José in 1999 on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Prespa, has won one of the Goldman Environmental Prizes for 2001. The announcement notes that she and Giorgios Catsadorakis "have used their research to create and advise community-based programs to restore Greece’s Prespa wetlands, one of Europe’s most biologically diverse regions. Thanks to the advocacy and leadership of Catsadorakis and Malakou, last year Albania, Macedonia and Greece signed an unprecedented agreement to create the first transboundary park in the Balkans, a region better known for conflict than cooperation". The announcements of the six Goldman Prizes for 2001 are at (Our report of the creation of the transboundary Prespa Park on World Wetlands Day 2000 is available here.) [24/04/01]

New handbook on reedbed management from Tour du Valat. For some years, a number of useful handbooks on reedbed management and conservation, mainly for birds, have been available in the U.K. and the English-speaking world. Now the French-speaking community can enjoy a timely handbook on operational and conservation aspects of reedbed management prepared by the Tour du Valat Biological Station for the French Natural Areas Technical Agency (ATEN), a joint venture of the Ministry of Spatial Planning and the Environment, the French National Parks, Regional Nature Parks, Nature Reserves, Coastal Conservation Agency, and Tour du Valat. Read here more about this useful publication in French. [20/04/01]

Ramsar and international law. There's recently been heightened interest in the Ramsar Convention in the context of international law and legal obligations. First, Wetlands, Water and the Law: using law to advance wetland conservation and wise use (IUCN, 1999, 332 pages), by Clare Shine and the late Cyrille de Klemm, offered an exhaustive study of wetland law at local, national, and international levels, with particular regard to the Ramsar Convention. Then, at the request of Standing Committee, IUCN’s Environmental Law Centre in Bonn undertook to develop guidance for the Parties on the interpretation of Articles 2.5 (restricting sites because of "urgent national interest") and 4.2 ("compensation" for doing so), the draft of which is presently out for comment from the Parties. Moreover, renewed interest is growing in the application of long-neglected Article 3.2, with requires Parties to notify the Bureau promptly of potential changes in the ecological character of Ramsar sites – in which David Pritchard of BirdLife recently made a substantial contribution to the dialogue for Standing Committee’s contemplation. A recent article in the Journal of Environment Law on Australia’s putative exploitation of weaknesses in the Ramsar doctrine of "wise use" has been ably rebutted by Bill Phillips. Now, to all of this good stuff, we’ve added a reprint of Michael Bowman’s insightful and thorough article in the Netherlands International Law Review in 1995, "The Ramsar Convention Comes of Age", which provides a thoughtful and succinct analysis of the Ramsar Convention in the context of other international legal instruments and international environmental law generally. We’re reprinting this article with the kind permission of Prof Bowman, Co-Director of the University of Nottingham Treaty Centre, and the publishers, Kluwer Law International. [17/04/01]

Switzerland inaugurates nature reserve near Geneva. In ceremonies on 6 April near Geneva, Swiss federal and Geneva city and cantonal authorities inaugurated the nature reserve "Teppe de Verbois", which has been incorporated into the newly expanded Ramsar site Le Rhône genevois - Vallons de l'Allondon et de La Laire. Valerie Higgins reports on the Teppe de Verbois festivities, and here is a description of the expanded Ramsar site. [13/04/01]

MedWet Regions Network. The 2nd meeting of the MedWet Regions Network took place 24-27 March on the island of Menorca and featured discussions with personnel from seven regions about development of a wetland conservation and wise use project based upon multiregional collaboration. Here is a brief report and a few photos. [10/04/01]

Progress from PIANC's working group on wetland restoration. The 4th meeting of the working group on wetland restoration set up by the International Navigation Association (PIANC) -- "to raise awareness and to provide a technical guidance document targeted at engineers, scientists, developers and managers in the ports and navigation sector, to assist them in planning, design, construction, monitoring and management of fresh and saltwater wetlands, internationally" – was held in London, England, 13-16 March 2001. Here is Tobias Salathé's report on the event and the process of which it is a part. [21/03/01]

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