Report on international WISP seminar in Sweden, April 2001
European wetlands in spatial planning
During 5-7 April 2001 the final transnational seminar of the WISP project (Wetlands In Spatial Planning) brought together some 35 experts at Dagsnäs Slott on the edge of Lake Hornborga Ramsar Site, in the immediate vicinity of the famous stop-over site of up to 10,000 Eurasian cranes migrating to their Skandinavian breeding sites.
WISP is a European Union-funded Interreg IIC project covering the administrative regions of six countries bordering the North Sea. WISP created a network and partnership of 27 regional and local authorities, special agencies and NGOs in charge of the conservation and management of 12 wetland areas (including 6 Ramsar Sites): the Ringkjöbing string of wetlands (including the Skjern river restoration site) in Denmark, the Dollart mudflats, Stollhammer Wisch marsh, Eider-Treene-Sorge and Haseauen floodplains in Germany, Aksjon Jaervassdrag floodplain in Norway, lakes Hornborga and Oesten and Getterön coastal flats in Sweden, Lauwersmeer in the Netherlands, and the Fens in the U.K.
For each of the involved wetland sites, detailed SWOT analyses were carried out (Strengths- Weaknesses- Opportunities- Threats) in order to elaborate general conclusions and recommendations on integrating spatial planning through local participation and involving the tourism industry from the early planning stage into wetland management and restoration activities. The cooperation of different partners, representing also different stakeholders' interests provided fruitful exchanges. The basic principles elaborated for sustainable tourism in wetlands identify measurable parameters on environmental impact, socio-economic benefits, information and education, local information in tourism and promotion and marketing.
The central theme addressed by the WISP partners is the policy on restoration and conservation of natural wetland habitats around the North Sea, with special emphasis on local participation in wetland development. WISP is about to publish a set of detailed guidelines on aspects relating spatial planning with wetland management and sustainable tourism. The detailed guidelines on all aspects of "quality management", on tourism as a possibility for sustainable rural development, the development of wetland functions through innovative actions and voluntary contributions are a substantial contribution to the developing debate on these issues, not only in the North Sea region, but throughout Europe and other parts of the world. They complement the existing Ramsar guidelines and handbooks in a very valuable way.
The WISP project partners are actively preparing a follow-up project on "Eurowetlands" with proposals for practical applications of the ideas elaborated through the first phase. For more information visit their website www.eurowetlands.com.
-- reported by Dr Tobias Salathé, Ramsar