Implementation of the Ramsar Convention in Trinidad & Tobago


Implementation of the Ramsar Convention in Trinidad & Tobagorspb.jpg (7056 bytes)

RSPB Sabbatical Report

Dave Pritchard, December 1997

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 2DL, UK

table_contents.gif (1678 bytes)

Foreword   Preface   Acknowledgements   Abstract

1 Summary of conclusions and recommendations

Conclusions/lessons learned   Recommendations – for Trinidad & Tobago   Recommendations – for others

2 Background

3 T & T's experience with a national wetland policy

How has the international context helped? Why have a separate policy on wetlands? Relationship with legislation

4 National wetland policies from the international perspective

5 T & T's experience of using the Montreux Record and Management Guidance Procedure

6 Other assistance provided

7 References


By Bill Phillips,
Deputy Secretary General, Ramsar Convention Bureau

At the time of writing there are 106 signatories to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) and by the time of the Convention’s 7th Conference of the Contracting Parties in Costa Rica in May 1999 this will probably have increased to at least 120. This report by Dave Pritchard should be read by everyone charged with responsibility for implementing the Ramsar Convention in these countries. It describes in clear and concise terms how Trinidad and Tobago has approached the task of implementing the Convention with enthusiasm, determination and commitment. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago should be congratulated for their actions, and so should Dave Pritchard for bringing these experiences before us to consider and reflect upon.

This report shows in practical terms the challenges which must be faced by individual countries and the global community if we are to see the Ramsar Convention fully implemented. It shows how, in order to be effective, we must approach the task with a broad range of "tools" (policy, technical, etc.) and work with all sectors to ensure that wetlands are managed in accordance with the wise use ethic. His analysis of the implementation of the Convention in Trinidad and Tobago is also excellent for demonstrating how to draw up priorities and strategies for implementing the Convention. Importantly, the report is not afraid to consider some problem areas with implementation and is constructive and thoughtful in making recommendations for how these can be addressed.

In the few years since joining the Ramsar Convention (April 1993), Trinidad and Tobago has been a lesson in proactivity which many other countries could learn from, and especially the other small island states. Dave Pritchard uses the words "enthusiasm" and "courageous" several times to describe the actions of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and this is well justified. He also notes that they have "set a commendable example in a short space of time by making full use of some of the main measures which Ramsar participation offers: regional and international collaboration, a National Wetland Committee, a National Wetland Policy, the Montreux Record, the Management Guidance Procedure, and the Small Grants Fund."  Need I say more?

I urge all people with an interest in wetland conservation and the Ramsar Convention to read this report. It shows what can be done when there is strong political will supported by enthusiastic administrators, grassroots support, and regional and global cooperation. The lessons to be learned from the experiences in Trinidad and Tobago are of special significance to the other small island states but they are also a very valuable illustration for all Ramsar Contracting Parties.


This work was conducted with the opportunity of one month’s sabbatical leave from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The RSPB is Europe’s largest wildlife conservation charity, and is the UK Partner in the global partnership of bird and habitat conservation organisations known as BirdLife International.

This report discusses some of the main areas of work conducted during the month of November 1997, concerning national policies on wetlands and implementation of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in Trinidad & Tobago. Other written materials have been produced on specific aspects, including internal draft documents for the T & T authorities, and contributions to on-going international reviews of Ramsar policy matters. In addition, time was spent assisting the T & T Wildlife Section with tasks ranging from a film script to student lectures and committee meetings, and in particular editing the country’s first national wetland policy.


The RSPB and the Ramsar Convention Bureau are gratefully acknowledged for part-funding this project. Thanks are due in particular to Delmar Blasco and Montserrat Carbonell of the Bureau.

Staff of the Wildlife Section, Forestry Division in Trinidad & Tobago are warmly thanked for their tolerance and assistance of all kinds. I am grateful to David Boodoo, Lester Doodnath, Kalian Deonanan, Anil Lal, Motilal Lal, Vashti Mahabir, Ashook Maharaj, Sandra Maharajh, Neal Meade, Lisa O'Brien, David Persaud, Lisa Phillips-Thompson, Dave Samayah and Rhonda Sieunarine.

Other assistance, advice, time and information was provided by Gerard Alleng, Peter Bacon, Stanley Beard, Cormac Cullinan, Jackie Farrell, Richard ffrench, Pamela Ford, Molly Gaskin, Gillian John, Axel Kravatsky, Narine Lackhan, Karen MacGregor, Clayton Rubec, Marva Salvador-Arthur, Karlyn Shepherd, David Shim, Bjorn Sletto and David Wege.

Finally this project, and much of the current official conservation effort in Trinidad & Tobago, would not have been possible without the vision and heroic dedication of the Head of the Wildlife Section, Nadra Nathai-Gyan.

Dave Pritchard


A one-month visit to Trinidad & Tobago (T & T) in November 1997 was used to pursue two main objectives:

(i) to review aspects of implementation of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention), aiming to draw lessons from T & T's positive experience;

(ii) to assist with work relating to the national wetland policy in T & T.

Within a short time of becoming a Contracting Party to the Convention in 1993, T & T has actively applied many of the tools, mechanisms and ideas which Ramsar promotes. This experience is presented to help other countries get maximum benefit from their own participation in the treaty. Twenty one conclusions and 'lessons learned' are presented in bullet-point form at the front of this report, with a number of recommendations for the T & T government and others.

The author helped finalise the country’s first national wetland policy, and three issues relating to this are discussed in depth:

(i) Having an international context (such as cooperation under a Convention) adds extra benefits in the form of technical assistance, political and legal impetus, awareness of 'state of the art' thinking and access to funding. Receptive attitudes to such things make a difference.

(ii) Whether countries should have a national wetland policy separately from other environmental policy will depend on the circumstances, and some relevant considerations are discussed. Benefits include more complete addressing of the full agenda of what is required for wetlands, better ownership and engagement by those involved, and a more visible 'audit trail'. However 'pigeonholing' should be guarded against, and the best model is probably a hierarchy with clear linkages.

(iii) Relevant legislative aspects are under review in T & T, and some key points are discussed.

Drawing inter alia on this example, input has been provided to international comparative reviews of national wetland policy practice, and the drawing up of a guidance framework for use by Ramsar Parties. Other day-to-day assistance was also provided to the T & T Government Wildlife Section, and this is summarised.

In addition T & T has valuable experience of the application of the Ramsar Convention’s Management Guidance Procedure, involving outside help with problems of ecological change at the Nariva Swamp Ramsar site. A case study of this is given here, and it shows how positive and helpful the Procedure can be.

1 Summary of conclusions and recommendations

Conclusions/lessons learned

The international context

1 T & T has a relatively sophisticated familiarity with the international arena as a context for its affairs, and this has predisposed it to making the most of what a Convention can offer, and being sensitive to the views of the wider world.

2 T & T feels it has to work harder than other developing countries to be seen accurately as such, given some exaggerated perceptions about the patchy prosperity that does exist in places there.

3 T & T's attitude to outside involvements consists of a genuine interest to discover what the best received wisdom can contribute. Products must be appropriate if they are to help. 'Gap analysis' and support for implementing existing programmes can be as important as new initiatives.

Attitudes to the Ramsar Convention

4 The Ramsar Convention's institutions are regarded as relatively close to their 'customer base', and the feeling that backup is available (even just endorsement for actions already chosen) is valued.

5 The use of several tools and mechanisms promoted under the Convention very rapidly after T & T's accession created a valuable momentum which has continued since.

6 The benefit of recommendations from international conferences depends on what people choose to do with them: T & T perceives good sense in treating them seriously, as a distillation of respected wisdom and as support for committed action.

National implementation

7 Close working between T & T's Government staff and NGOs has built very strong foundations for action. Conscientious efforts in respect of community involvement have done the same.

8 Furthering the aims of the Convention at national level is difficult without a clearly identified focal point/lead agency, with sufficiently strong political support and adequate resources.

9 A Ministerial mandate for the work of the National Wetland Committee, and interest at that level in its work, has been valuable. This combined with its members being technically competent 'front line operators', rather than figureheads, makes it an effective model.

National Wetland Policies

10 National Wetland Policies are a useful way of expressing principles, stating intentions, showing what choices have been made about strategic directions, making commitments, facilitating and focusing consultation and consensus, expressing exhortations, and making roles and responsibilities clear.

11 Being able to portray a national policy as delivering international commitments can be helpful in expediting its adoption and implementation, and in avoiding the re-invention of justifications for courses of action.

12 Whether a National Wetland Policy should be separate from other environmental policy will depend on the circumstances. It can be useful to look at every field of action through the lens of what is required for wetland objectives specifically, as codified under Ramsar, and to ensure a complete suite of actions is provided for. Specific wetland policies are also useful to provide a visible 'audit trail' for delivery of wetland objectives, and to create identification with, ownership of and engagement with the issues by those responsible (subject to safeguards against 'pigeonholing').

13 Perhaps the best model is a hierarchy of progressively more specific instruments sitting under more general ones: but whatever degree of specificity or integration is followed, a key requirement is for a 'map of linkages' to be available somewhere.

14 Even a seemingly comprehensive measure like the T & T Environmental Management Act is not a complete rationalisation of measures for nature conservation and protected areas, and the draft National Environmental Policy does not show linkages, leaving this to other documents.

15 Policy and legislation should visibly and reasonably promptly be followed by 'real world' implementation and enforcement – if they are allowed to run too far ahead of what can be done in this regard, confidence in the process may be undermined.

The Montreux Record/Management Guidance Procedure

16 Formal procedural steps such as the Environmental Impact Assessment at the Nariva Ramsar site raise a multiplicity of expectations. The risk of use of their use as a delaying or distracting ploy, or of exaggerating what they will deliver, should be guarded against.

17 The use of the Montreux Record/Management Guidance Procedure in respect of Nariva Swamp is viewed as an extremely positive example of some of the best benefits which these processes offer, and has helped to crystallise the importance of the Convention at national level. Prompt and energetic progress with the Procedure, the National Wetland Committee, the National Wetland Policy, the Wetland Management Project and the application to the Small Grants Fund within the same period of time allowed each of these to be mutually reinforcing and for synergies between them to be exploited to good effect.

18 The Management Guidance Procedure made good use of Ramsar's international networks to find the right neutral specialist experts, from within the Neotropical region, to focus on the issues of concern in a way tailored to T & T's specific needs. A preliminary scoping visit was valued.

19 The MGP, funded by the Convention, was instrumental in catalysing the EIA and management planning work now underway in Nariva, which will be a vital part of providing for a sustainable future for the area. It was also the primary basis for securing additional financial support from the Ramsar Small Grants Fund, and has helped catalyse other funding too.

20 Prior to the MGP, overseas (and some domestic) involvements in issues at Nariva had been viewed with some scepticism by local communities and others. The Ramsar mission was the first such initiative which combined the use of outside experts with genuine community participation in exploring future options for the area. The personal presence of the MGP team 'on the ground' for a reasonable period was a key factor.

21 The whole MGP process and events associated with it have built significantly higher levels of awareness generally in T & T about wetlands and wise use issues.

Recommendations – for Trinidad & Tobago

(Specific comments on draft documents etc have been submitted separately and are not reproduced here – see list of such cases in section 6 below)

National Wetland Policy

1 Once the National Wetland Policy is adopted, resourcing commitments should be made, an Action Plan drawn up, and a legislative 'gap analysis' be undertaken.

2 The National Wetland Policy itself should be widely disseminated in a quality format.

Other policies and legislation

3 The draft National Environmental Policy should be amended to show more of the linkages between related policy fields, and relevant international contexts.

4 Draft legislation on Environmentally Sensitive Areas, conservation agreements, National Parks and other protected areas, conservation of wildlife (amendments), certificates of environmental clearance and environmental impact assessment should be finalised for adoption as soon as practicable.

5 An integrated national system for protected natural areas should be put in place to embrace existing and proposed designated areas, describing the purposes of each designation, and setting out future system objectives (including coverage objectives).

6 A national Biodiversity Action Plan for T & T should be drawn up for adoption during 1998.


7 Plans for a new administrative entity to take lead responsibility for wildlife and protected areas (including wetland issues) should be brought to fruition as soon as practicable. It should be assured of a sufficiently wide statutory mandate and adequate resources for this function.

8 The National Wetland Committee should be given a permanent rather than a rolling mandate (though its members can continue to serve time-limited terms).

9 The National Wetland Committee should consider inviting a representative of the Environmental Management Authority to join the Committee.

10 As part of its existing functions the National Wetland Committee should function as a clearing-house for exchanging information on relevant research projects and other initiatives.

11 NGOs should (continue to) be afforded access where appropriate to relevant activities, processes and institutions, where possible in direct partnerships and collaborations (see Ramsar Conference Recommendations 5.6 and 5.7).

12 Methods for ensuring coherence of controls over State lands administered by the proposed National Parks and Wildlife Authority, with controls over private land administered by the Environmental Management Authority, should be worked out in detail.

The Nariva Swamp Ramsar site

13 Linked to the management plan being drawn up for the Nariva Swamp Ramsar site, an economic evaluation should be conducted, as recommended in the 1996 Monitoring Procedure/Management Guidance Procedure report (which contains a total of 84 important recommendations).

International relations

14 T & T should use its experience of Ramsar in helping to promote the benefits of accession to the Convention among other countries in the Caribbean, e.g., by offering presentations to relevant fora.

15 In its national report to the 7th COP, T & T should consider expanding the section on international cooperation to cover more than just an account of collaborative research projects.

Recommendations – for others

(Recommendations regarding best practice in National Wetland Policies will be incorporated into the 'framework' document being drawn up by Canada and others pursuant to Ramsar Conference Recommendation 6.9 (see section 4 below), and they are not reproduced here).

National Wetland Policies

16 Countries considering drawing up a National Wetland Policy prior to 1999 should consult the Bureau regarding current pooled international experience of approaches to consider, until such time as the proposed 'framework' for NWPs is considered at the 7th Ramsar Conference.

17 The merits or otherwise of producing National Wetland Policies as separate instruments will depend on the circumstances, but in general this approach is desirable, subject to the caveats in the 'lessons learned' section above.


18 Views should be canvassed by the Bureau on whether it would be valuable to codify at international level some principles or a framework of basic 'good practice' ideas on what sort of structure of national legislative controls etc should be considered by Contracting Parties for protection of Ramsar sites, and for implementation of the Convention generally.

The Management Guidance Procedure, and the Ramsar Bureau

19 The Management Guidance Procedure should be used more frequently and proactively. (This is consistent with the intentions already expressed in Standing Committee decision 19.17 and Strategic Plan action 5.1.4).

20 The summaries of all Management Guidance Procedure reports should be made available (perhaps on the Ramsar Website), indexed according to the type of issues they each address.

21 'Backup' services to individual Contracting Parties from the Ramsar Bureau for implementing of the Convention, including follow-up to Management Guidance Procedure missions, should not diminish.

International relations and the Caribbean

22 A short review should be conducted of the Ramsar Convention's regional divisions in respect of the Caribbean, to examine options such as placing the Caribbean in the North American region.

23 Caribbean countries participating in relevant international meetings should consult with other Caribbean countries who may be unable to send delegates, with a view to discovering common positions, or making one another's views known.

24 Potential funding agencies should consider sympathetically requests from Caribbean countries for support to attend relevant international meetings to represent the interests of the region, particularly where participation is coordinated as described above.

2 Background

Trinidad & Tobago’s participation in Ramsar

2.1 Trinidad and Tobago acceded to the Ramsar Convention in December 1992, the accession taking effect in April 1993. Nariva Swamp was designated for the list of wetlands of international importance, and remains the only Ramsar site in the country, although other important wetlands have been identified (see e.g., James et al 1986). Almost immediately, Trinidad and Tobago began playing a full part in the activities of the Convention, for example at the 5th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties in June 1993, and since then at the Neotropical Region meeting in June 1995, and the 6th Conference of Parties in March 1996.

2.2 Trinidad & Tobago was for some time the only island nation in the Caribbean which was a Contracting Party to the Convention (it has since been joined by the Bahamas and Jamaica), and it has enthusiastically embraced its rôle in speaking for some issues of regional importance. Given that in some respects the Caribbean has a distinct identity within Ramsar's Neotropical region (which currently contains 17 Contracting Parties), unusually it has provided, in the shape of Trinidad & Tobago, a second 'alternate' member of the Standing Committee. The Convention's Scientific & Technical Review Panel includes T & T's Prof Peter Bacon as an alternate member for the Neotropical region.

2.3 A Wetland Research Group was set up at the Trinidad campus of the University of the West Indies in 1994. In January 1995, a National Wetland Committee was established, including representatives of relevant Government Ministries and non-government organisations. In 1996 it drafted a National Wetland Policy (recently finalised, as part of the current project, and among the first few of these in the world), thereby applying one of the key planks of the adopted Guidelines on implementing the 'wise use of wetlands' obligation of the Convention. In these and other respects, Trinidad and Tobago has quickly established itself as one of the Contracting Parties which has embraced most wholeheartedly and progressively its Ramsar commitments.

2.4 This does not mean that wetland conservation in T & T is without problems. The Nariva Swamp Ramsar site exhibits a wide range of management challenges, such as changes in ecological character being brought about by heavy pressure from clearance by illegal rice farmers, and the use of agrochemicals. To its credit the Government has boldly confronted these issues, by requesting formal listing of the site on the Ramsar 'Montreux Record', and application of the 'Monitoring Procedure' (now the Management Guidance Procedure). Under this Procedure, an international expert mission visited the country in April–May 1995, producing a comprehensive report in February 1996. The Government is now applying itself to taking forward the recommendations which were made, and a follow-up visit by Ramsar Bureau staff coincided with the present project. In October 1996 T & T was awarded a SFR35,000 grant from the Ramsar Small Grants Fund for progressing the recommendations relating to a management plan for Nariva, showing one benefit of the country's bold approach.

2.5 The RSPB supports the Management Guidance Procedure as an important tool for resolving difficult issues in Ramsar site protection, and for several years has made a contribution to its operating budget. The Society argues for a proactive rather than simply reactive use of it.

2.6 Trinidad & Tobago has set a commendable example in a short space of time by making full use of some of the main measures which Ramsar participation offers: regional and international collaboration, a National Wetland Committee, a National Wetland Policy, the Montreux Record, the Management Guidance Procedure and the Small Grants Fund. These are at relatively early stages of implementation: a courageous course has been embarked upon, which will depend on a variety of sources of committed assistance to realise its goals.

The needs identified by the Government of Trinidad & Tobago and the Ramsar Bureau

2.7 The most detailed exposition of needs perceived by the Trinidad and Tobago Government and the Ramsar Bureau is that discussed in the report of the application of the Management Guidance Procedure or MGP (formerly the Monitoring Procedure) at Nariva Swamp (Ramsar Convention Bureau 1996a).

2.8 The Nariva Swamp Ramsar site is one of the largest freshwater wetlands in the Caribbean, and has the most varied vegetation of all wetlands in Trinidad and Tobago. It is especially important for large numbers of waterfowl and is the main site still sustaining populations of anaconda and manatee. It supports considerable populations of molluscs and crustaceans, and several species of fish. Particular problems have arisen from the land tenure situation, loss of habitats to agriculture, the use of water resources, and the complex administration of the site. This results in the lack of a coherent and easily implementable conservation and socio-economic development policy for Nariva and the local communities which depend on and influence it.

2.9 The MGP report makes 84 detailed recommendations on management, research, community involvement and institutional matters. Central to these are the preparation of a management plan, an economic valuation and an environmental impact assessment of future rice-growing activities, with various hydrological studies.

2.10 Other matters raised include the particular difficulties which arise due to the existing and proposed conservation categories and boundaries for the site: a revision is said to be essential. The legal framework for a national protected area system is still not in place. The Environmental Management Act 1995 provides among other things for the establishment of an Environmental Management Authority, an Environmental Trust Fund and an Environmental Commission, the last of which would also be responsible for implementing the Government's international obligations. The Authority is already functioning: it is among other things charged with undertaking an evaluation of laws and programmes which affect environmental issues, and regulations for implementing the Act are being prepared.

2.11 International cooperation on all these efforts has been identified as important. Trinidad & Tobago has an acute eye to the wider context. It supports the MGP report's conclusion that 'Nariva Swamp and the communities surrounding it present a good opportunity for an exercise in co-management and wise use of natural resources. This area could, if properly handled and adequately managed, become a showcase for the region, especially the Caribbean'. The National Wetland Policy refers to the country taking a lead role in encouraging membership of the Convention in the region.

2.12 This positive approach is taken up in T & T's national report to the 6th Meeting of the Conference of Ramsar Parties in Brisbane, Australia, in 1996 (Nathai-Gyan 1995). In relation to Nariva, the report states that the Government is confident that the operation of the MGP at the site will help in the preparation of the necessary management plan. The Ramsar Standing Committee at its 19th meeting in Gland, Switzerland in October/November 1996, and again at its 20th meeting in September/October 1997, agreed that documented case examples of applications of the Procedure such as that for T & T would be a useful addition to the Wetlands International publication 'An Overview of the World's Ramsar sites', when this comes to be updated for the next Conference of Parties in 1999.

2.13 The national report then relates this to the steps being taken to adopt a National Wetland Policy. The idea of such policies has always been a key part of the thinking which has been developed on implementing the 'wise use of wetlands' concept of the Convention. Well-known pioneering efforts on this front have been made by Canada and Uganda. Peru and Australia have recently joined their number, and at least ten other countries now have such policies under development. The T & T national report commented that the preparation of a National Wetland Policy was considered to be a crucial activity, which should serve to give much needed direction and guidance for the Nariva management plan, and that information received from Canada and Uganda would assist in this priority task. Although some global principles on these policies have been articulated, there is no one model for all situations. A perspective on the issue which can draw on a variety of circumstances should therefore be beneficial in bringing this initiative to fruition.

2.14 There is great interest in international pooling of experience on these matters. Ramsar Conference Recommendation 6.9, adopted in 1996, calls for collation of information and experience with a view to working up a framework for development and implementation of National Wetland Policies, which could be adopted at the 7th Meeting of the Conference of Parties in 1999. The same issue is highlighted in the Ramsar Strategic Plan 1997–2002 (Ramsar Bureau 1996d: actions 2.1.2 and 2.3.2). Work to advance this is now being taken forward by Canada, Uganda, Trinidad & Tobago and DEP, (and is hence an important destination for the fruits of the present project).

2.15 Promotion of experience with implementing the Montreux Record and Management Guidance Procedure is also seen as important, both to disseminate the ideas and lessons which these mechanisms generate, and to encourage others to make use of them where appropriate. The risk that they may be seen as 'enforcement' or 'blacklisting' procedures can be overcome with more promotion of the tangible benefits they produce. The Scientific & Technical Review Panel's 5th meeting in Hortobagy, Hungary in June 1996 recorded that 'there is an urgent need to publicise positive examples of the Montreux Record'. Trinidad and Tobago's use of the Record offers very valuable scope in this regard. A desire for follow-up (to revive the political impetus within the country given by international attention) has been highlighted to the Ramsar Standing Committee by T & T.

2.16 Guidelines for describing and maintaining the ecological character of listed sites were adopted as an annex to Resolution VI.1 of the Brisbane Conference. Members of the Scientific & Technical Review Panel at its 6th meeting in Gland, Switzerland in April 1997 agreed to undertake a test of the guidelines for example sites in their regions during the summer of 1997; and Prof Bacon offered to do this using the Nariva site.

2.17 Trinidad & Tobago's positive experiences with Ramsar more generally deserve wider promotion, not least for the important strategic objective of showing non-Parties the benefits of joining the Convention, a point reflected in action 3.3.3 of the Strategic Plan. This is particularly important in the currently under-represented Caribbean region, where increased membership is a priority objective. As the T & T national report says: 'The Ramsar Convention is now considered as the key instrument to assist Trinidad & Tobago with attaining the wise use of its wetlands. The Convention is immediately identified as the mechanism for achieving wetland conservation, and enjoys widespread recognition by many governmental and non-governmental organisations and individuals in Trinidad & Tobago, despite recent membership in 1993'.

2.18 Input on these matters was requested by the Trinidad and Tobago Government and the Ramsar Bureau. At the outset they formally confirmed their endorsements for this project, and it would not have been possible without their considerable help.

3 T & T's experience with a national wetland policy

3.1 This section does not aim to provide a historical account of the development of T & T's NWP (which in any case is summarised in the Policy itself), nor does it aim to give a comprehensive review of every aspect of it. Instead, discussions during the project focused on three main questions of wider topical interest, viz:

(i) How and to what extent has the international context helped?

(ii) What are the pros and cons of a specific national policy on the wetlands topic, as opposed to other approaches e.g., more general environmental policy frameworks?

(iii) What issues arise in respect of the relationship between the policy and legislation?

How has the international context helped?

3.2 One might argue that everything done to produce T & T's (or any) NWP could have been done without a Convention offering ideas and suggestions from outside. If an international treaty is to provide real added value to what would otherwise happen, this is therefore an important question to pose. Whether such things would in fact happen without the treaty is of course part of the question too.

3.3 The introduction to the NWP states that T & T's accession to the Convention signalled a commitment which already existed to the wise use of wetlands. Taking this step, and having regard to Ramsar Conference Recommendation 5.7 on National Ramsar/Wetland Committees (coincidentally an initiative of DEP's), then stimulated the creation of a National Wetland Committee, which in turn had as its first objective the production of a NWP.

3.4 The wise use guidelines/additional guidance, adopted under Recommendation 4.10 and Resolution 5.6, provide encouragement and advice on drawing up NWPs. Recommendations etc from international conferences are sometimes disparaged, and are only as helpful as people choose to make them. In T & T's case it is perceived as good sense to treat them seriously, as a distillation of respected wisdom and support for committed action.

3.5 The international context has helped in two senses: (a) technical advice and (b) political support.

3.6 In terms of technical advice, the Ramsar Bureau made T & T aware that Canada and Uganda had pioneering experience of the NWP process. Both countries were duly contacted by the T & T Government, and provided material which was used in early scoping stages. This was an example of an international agency acting as a 'clearing-house' to facilitate the right sort of bilateral help. (Indeed the present project has come about in the same way). This can also apply to gaining access to data, training and funds, though these have not been specifically part of the T & T NWP story.

3.7 T & T has a relatively sophisticated familiarity with the international arena as a context for its affairs. There is a sizeable population of transient foreigners living in the country; it has the highest density of newspaper production in the English-speaking Caribbean; and its people have always done a fair amount of travelling, especially during the oil boom years when this became more affordable. All this has predisposed T & T to making the most of what a Convention can offer, and being sensitive to the views of the wider world.

3.8 Help can always be valuable. T & T particularly feels it has to work harder than other developing countries to be seen accurately as such, given some exaggerated perceptions about the patchy prosperity that does exist in places there.

3.9 Nonetheless, and while not strictly part of a discussion about how the international context helps with NWPs, T & T is among the minority of Contracting Parties to have benefited already from Ramsar support mechanisms through the Management Guidance Procedure (see section 5 below) and the Small Grants Fund.

3.10 Speaking generally again, political support has been a very important factor, and there is a desire for external endorsement of good approaches. External confirmation that some endeavours are visionary or courageous by comparison with others elsewhere has boosted morale and enthusiasm. The moral and practical support and 'backup' provided by the Ramsar Bureau compares favourably with other Conventions, and the Bureau is felt to be close to its 'customer base'.

3.11 Being able to portray national actions as delivering international commitments can be helpful in securing and maintaining internal political support for them, while also avoiding the re-invention of justifications for them.

3.12 NGO advocacy and profile in the media draw additional impetus from the existence of government commitments made in international fora, and from the notion of outside scrutiny. A television feature broadcast in T & T in 1994 on the Nariva Ramsar site ('Nariva Must Not Die', Pearl & Dean (Caribbean) Ltd) warned against 'losing the respect of the international community, who through Ramsar have acknowledged the importance of Nariva in a world context'.

3.13 NGOs naturally tend to attribute positive action by Governments to the NGOs' efforts in using leverage such as this in their lobbying. (A paper by the Government Wildlife Section (1993) applauds the collaborative contribution from T & T NGO representatives at the 1993 Ramsar Conference which saw the formal invocation of Ramsar processes in relation to Nariva Swamp). T & T's attitude to outside involvements seems to consist of a genuine interest to discover what the best received wisdom can contribute. This was also cited for example in relation to Tobago's intended approach to its plans for setting up its own Environment Department. Whatever the actual cause, if the effect is striving for a result which the international community can be happy with, then these international dimensions are probably more often a force for good than not.

3.14 The processes by which explicit pressure or implicit expectations from the outside world make themselves felt are varied.

3.15 One example is the influence of the United States as an important economic market for T & T products. US consumer demands feed through the market and affect environmental standards in relation to e.g., agrochemical pesticides in food exports, or the use of turtle-excluding devices on shrimp-trawls. Specific demands can be made by one government to another in relation to such standards, sometimes as conditions for assistance. The market forces exerted by environmentally-conscious tourists will be another important factor to consider.

3.16 These processes also spawn a range of more implicit assumptions about the sort of environmental standards which might be expected in other fields, and this is said for example to have influenced the drafting of T & T's Environmental Management Act (and the champions of the Act have referred to its consistency with messages from the 1992 Rio Earth Summit).

3.17 In the case of another statute, the National Parks and Watershed Management Bill (or National Parks and Wildlife Bill as it was then), the involvement of the World Bank in providing finance led to external consultants being used for the drafting work.

3.18 Such approaches must guard against the risk of injecting such a level of international determinism into what is done that it may part company from the models which are most appropriate or workable for local needs. As ever, a happy medium seems best. Capacity to follow through must be borne in mind too – if policy or legislation is pushed too far ahead of what can be implemented or enforced in the 'real world', then confidence in the process may be undermined. (It is hoped that the current project is not an example of this!)

3.19 The draft of the National Environment Policy which was current at the time of this project contains an objective (f) of encouraging cooperation with other countries and organisations overseas; but only in relation to transboundary pollution and use of shared resources. This could be widened, e.g., to cover sharing knowledge more generally, collaborating in establishing and applying best practice to problem-solving and planning, and defining wider contexts for action. By contrast with the National Wetland Policy, the draft NEP makes no reference to international commitments, except a general one to sustainable development in the context of Agenda 21.

3.20 These types of general international cooperation are a valuable part of what the Ramsar Convention hopes to facilitate. The section on 'international cooperation' in the T & T National Report to the 1996 Ramsar Conference is confined to mentioning collaborative research projects, and more than this could be said next time.

3.21 The National Wetland Policy commendably sees T & T taking 'a lead role in encouraging Ramsar membership especially in [the Caribbean] sub-region'. This was conceived not out of arrogance but simply to make helpful use of the fact that T & T is the first island nation in the 'sub-region' to have acquired experience (an impressive amount in a short time) of what Ramsar membership brings.

Why have a separate policy on wetlands?

3.22 It is not the purpose of this section to discover or advocate a 'right answer', but just to examine what is obviously a range of pros and cons in taking one approach or another.

3.23 The wise use guidelines might read as though they advocate separate NWPs, and it would probably be right to read them at least as advocating that this question be made a starting-point. More recently the Ramsar Strategic Plan gave support to both approaches, saying (in 2.1.2) 'Promote much greater efforts to develop NWPs, either separately or as a clearly identifiable component of other national conservation planning initiatives, such as National Environment Action Plans, National Biodiversity Strategies, or National Conservation Strategies.'

3.24 The report of Technical Session A at the 1996 Conference of Parties records the view that 'NWPs 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 NWP is not always necessary, but might be included in other national policies, for example on biodiversity.'

3.25 These quotations provide a reminder that similar national vehicles for delivering international policy objectives have been conceived under the World Conservation Strategy (IUCN/UNEP/WWF 1980) and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Clearly, needless duplication should be avoided. If a national Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) is in place, there should be an explicit link between this and the NWP. The NWP could help deliver relevant aspects of the BAP, in relation to areas of search/site prioritisation for action opportunities; helping to unlock funding; and deciding how to respond when monitoring shows underperformance against relevant BAP targets.

3.26 The 'right' degree of separateness/distinctiveness of a NWP from other things will depend on the circumstances of the country concerned; e.g., its capacity to resource the development of numerous policy initiatives, its policy-making traditions and norms, and what it already has in place.

3.27 Mafabi (1996) reports as part of the reason for Uganda's early decision to draw up a NWP, the fact that existing policies on land and water were too sectoral and inflexible, either inadequately dealing with wetland conservation, or militating against it. It was also seen that a NWP (perhaps the process as much as the product) would be valuable for raising awareness of wetland issues.

3.28 Gordon & McKenzie (1996) found that a review of Jamaica's legislation showed that several statutes helped with or were relevant to wetland conservation, but that actions were 'for the most part piecemeal and ad hoc, lacking an appropriate policy framework'; and they believed that this fact had contributed to wetland loss.

3.29 Barnaud (1996) indicates that sectoral policies in France were found to be dominated by matters which tended to work against wetland conservation; and the French Wetlands Action Plan 1993–2005 was conceived to help redress this imbalance.

3.30 T & T's NWP simply cites as its justification the importance of wetlands and the urgent need to address the threats affecting them. It was also seen as fulfilling a Convention objective, and as useful for raising consciousness about the issues.

3.31 At its simplest, the case for a separate NWP may be a pragmatic one, viz that it deals with a 'single' issue in an easily manageable way.

3.32 There is also an issue which is perhaps mainly presentational, in a NWP being something which can be identified with, 'owned' and meaningfully engaged with/operated by those with relevant roles and responsibilities.

3.33 Further, it is probably useful to look at everything through the lens of wetland objectives (helpfully codified under the Ramsar Convention) to check where and how they are all covered. The legislative 'gap analysis' proposal added to the T & T NWP (by DEP) is an example of this, and in general this should make it easier to plan wetland actions.

3.34 Further still, there is merit in the way a NWP gives a clear 'audit trail' for actions relevant to wetlands, and its contribution to making progress or lack of it more visible is important.

3.35 There is a risk that putting wetland issues into a separate policy could lead those who are not central to it regarding it as somebody else's business – the 'pigeonholing' effect. This must be guarded against.

3.36 It is worse still if the part of government in which it becomes pigeonholed has insufficient resources or political weight – if the sector which is most logically relevant suffers in this way, there may be more merit, pragmatically, in 'lumping in' wetlands with some broader field of policy which has the requisite status. Agriculture Ministries might be an example: although ultimately an Environment Ministry is more logical for the purpose, in some countries this may be vestigial or non-existent, and in the meantime if agricultural policy and spending includes doing the right thing for wetland conservation, not all of the objective but certainly a significant part of it will be being addressed.

3.37 Water resources management, marine and coastal affairs, wildlife, planning and development, public works, sewerage, leisure/tourism, forestry and education are all part of the picture too.

3.38 In T & T the NWP has been produced by a committee of broad interests, but with impetus and oversight provided by the Government Wildlife Section. The Section's main mandate is species protection: it sits within the Forestry Division which in turn is in the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources. These structures are under review, and a National Parks and Wildlife Authority has been proposed. However there is also an Environmental Management Authority in existence, with wide-ranging responsibilities under the Environmental Management Act. The Authority is not represented on the National Wetland Committee.

3.39 Guarding against pigeonholing will entail the NWP making clear what part other policy sectors need to play in its delivery, and ensuring that they do so. In this sense its being a separate instrument can be helpful, if it comes with a specific high-level commitment and endorsement of wetland objectives, for example by the Cabinet (as in T & T) or the Prime Minister.

3.40 T & T's NWP includes key items on identifying relevant responsibilities, jurisdictions and actions across all areas of Government, urging all agencies with relevant functions to exercise them in pursuit of the Policy's goals, and reviewing compatibilities, complementarities, conflicts and gaps in policy and legislation, sector-by-sector (and correcting any problems identified).

3.41 As well as the NWP, T & T also has a National Environment Policy (in draft at the time of this project), which contains several 'issue-specific policies'. First of these is wetlands (although 'coastal and marine areas' is treated separately), and it summarises (though not totally accurately) the main items in the NWP. The NWP can therefore be looked on as the more detailed treatment of an aspect of the NEP, and one would look to the latter to see how the former might be bound together coherently with other policies. Most arms of Government have signed Memoranda of Understanding with the Environmental Management Authority who will oversee the NEP, and these together with more detailed 'Supplemental Agreements' offer a mechanism for agreeing these linkages.

3.42 The draft NEP itself however does not show links and cross-references, and the section on wetlands does not even mention the NWP. An Action Plan to be drawn up under this Policy is viewed by the EMA as the place where these matters will be addressed.

3.43 In principle however the model suggested by this approach appears a useful one, ie some sort of 'nested hierarchy', where a NWP would provide a comprehensive view of what is specifically required for wetlands, fitting within a more generalised environmental policy. However the nature of the fit must be defined: the key thing in adopting this model will be the 'map of linkages' between levels in the hierarchy ('vertically') and between sectors ('horizontally'). Methods for making these links work in practice (e.g., MoUs or other explicit protocols) will be critical too.

Relationship with legislation

3.44 With the T & T NWP close to adoption, its link with legislation was felt to be a useful area to explore; and as an example of the sort of issues which arise in one country this should also be of wider interest.

3.45 If policy shows how an administration captures the public will or mandate on an issue, and refines it with its own intelligent vision, it might be seen as the highest level in a hierarchy. It sets the context for the levels below, first of which might be how a legislature deals with the issues in legislation. A country like T & T adopting a NWP for the first time will naturally ask what legislation is necessary to implement the aspects of it which are new.

3.46 In fact since the NWP is conceived as taking forward Ramsar Convention commitments, the question becomes one of what legislation is necessary to implement the Convention. Clearly legal controls are only one part but an important part of what is required to do this. However the form of these is left entirely to the Contracting Parties. There is no process by which the Ramsar Bureau or anyone else scrutinises what measures a Contracting Party proposes to use to honour its obligations to protect listed wetland sites and to promote wise use of wetlands generally. If a country accedes to the Convention and says it has the domestic legal machinery to implement it, this generally must be taken on trust.

3.47 Informally of course there is scope for conferring about suitable approaches, but with the exception perhaps of bilateral legal frameworks for trans-frontier resource management (see de Klemm 1993), there has not been much in-depth exploration of this under Ramsar. A more recent paper looks at some constitutional and general aspects in an African context (Ntambirweki 1997).

3.48 The Bureau is limited in the advice it can provide, since the Convention gives few specific pointers to legal solutions. Inferences can be drawn about what basic provisions might be sufficient; but there is no real body of commonly-understood standards and norms to work to. It would be worth taking some soundings as to whether there is sufficient demand to make it worth codifying at international level some principles or a framework of basic 'good practice' ideas on what sort of structure of controls should be considered for protection of Ramsar sites, and for implementation of the Convention generally. Sources of advice for particular cases should be considered too.

3.49 Some of those interviewed for this project in T & T assumed that once the NWP was adopted, it would automatically be followed by proposals for new legislation. Environmental issues currently seem to be in a favoured phase there, and Parliamentary time is not at so much of a premium in this field as it is for others. T & T generally seems to have no lack of enthusiasm for enacting new laws (though questions of enthusiasm and resourcing for follow-though, implementation and enforcement then arise).

3.50 Perhaps more tentatively, a first step might be a 'gap analysis' to see how much of the Policy can be implemented with existing measures, and what new ones are genuinely necessary. Tempting though large-scale new legislation is, if the need for it is not well demonstrated, the time it takes to steer through could detract from the business of putting the Policy to work (or could even be used deliberately as a stalling tactic).

3.51 Additional legal staff have become available in the Ministry, and this issue should be an early task for them. Various other areas of policy and law are under review at the time of writing; but rather than wait for these to stabilise before addressing the NWP, the view was that it would be better to start early, avoid delay and perhaps influence these reviews beneficially in the process.

3.52 Other practical considerations include the fact that where Parliamentarians tend to vote en bloc along Party lines, stalemates can emerge, and it may be better to cater for some issues at a subsidiary level (especially those that will require review sooner rather than later). On the other hand, in countries with deeply-felt traditions concerning private land ownership rights (as in T & T), it may be unwise to do anything affecting these without the full authority of primary legislation.

3.53 Political ideologies on matters such as deregulation and the balance of incentives and controls will colour the picture too, though this was not seen to be a major issue in T & T.

3.54 Looking simply at the question of how potentially damaging activities, developments and changes of use affecting Ramsar sites can be controlled, there are several methods in place or proposed in T & T which (to an extent at least) can do this.

(i) Forestry legislation is relevant, both institutionally (see 3.60 – 3.62 below) and because T & T's Ramsar site at Nariva Swamp contains important swamp forest habitat. Designation of Prohibited Areas under the Forests Act 1915 (as amended) has been used to protect the site.

(ii) State Forest Reserves can also be declared under the 1915 Act.

(iii) Control in many areas is possible by virtue of their being in State ownership, as provided by the State Lands Act 1969; although at present the Wildlife Section which leads on Ramsar technically has no locus to determine what happens on such lands.

(iv) The Conservation of Wildlife Act 1958 enables the creation of 'Game Sanctuaries', though the only restrictions available are on hunting. (Protection of turtles is governed by Regulations under fisheries legislation; and there is a separate Act dealing with protection of plants – both are limited in scope).

(v) The Marine Areas (Preservation and Enhancement) Act 1970 provides for restricted areas, and there are associated Regulations. Only one such area has been declared to date: the Buccoo Reef/Bon Accord Lagoon complex in Tobago, a candidate Ramsar site.

(vi) Under the Town & Country Planning Act 1960 as amended, planning permission can be refused for environmental reasons, though the scope of this appears not to have been fully tested. Tree Preservation Orders are also relevant to wetlands, as explained above. A separate planning statute applies to the Chaguaramas Peninsula, which is administered by its own Development Authority.

(vii) A National Parks and Watershed Management Bill is under discussion at the time of writing, and it offers scope not only for controls in National Parks and some other protected areas, but also positive measures for 'wise use' management.

(viii) Under the Environmental Management Act 1995 there is provision for designating Environmentally Sensitive Areas (and species), and for drawing up Conservation Agreements with private landowners for management of such areas. Both these matters will be governed by Regulations, which were still in draft at the time of writing. These should become a significant addition to the range of provisions available.

(ix) Proposals were also under discussion at the time of writing for a new Conservation of Wildlife Act to replace the Act of 1958. It is intended that this will enhance the controls available in Game Sanctuaries, and will add new provisions relating to fish, plants, endangered species recovery and protection of habitat.

3.55 A range of other measures exist governing land acquisition, marine matters, sewerage etc, and these are also relevant.

3.56 As in many countries, marine and coastal aspects are highly fragmented, with some (e.g., protection of marine mammals) appearing to fall between stools. Consultant studies on a more integrated approach in respect of fisheries and planning have been undertaken (Cullinan 1995). Planning control covers the intertidal zone, but e.g., control of hydrocarbon exploitation below low water falls to the Energy Ministry. One progressive aspect is worthy of note, namely that the definition of marine areas under the 1970 Act (Section 2) 'includes any adjoining land or swamp areas which form within (sic) certain submarine areas a single ecological entity'.

3.57 Not surprisingly, institutional issues are closely bound up with this picture. Again, much is currently under review, and a new Authority (or perhaps two) for National Parks and Wildlife is envisaged. This/they would oversee the new National Parks and Conservation of Wildlife legislation, and would acquire new powers in relation to State lands. For private land, the proposed ESA provisions (see 3.54 (viii) above) will be important, though these come under the separate jurisdiction of the Environmental Management Authority, as do provisions for Certificates of Environmental Clearance and Environmental Impact Assessment.

3.58 Methods for ensuring coherence between these differently-administered sets of controls over public and private land should be worked out in detail.

3.59 Ideally, a fully integrated national system for protected natural areas should be put in place to embrace existing and proposed designated areas, describing the purposes of each designation, and setting out future system objectives, including coverage objectives. A plan for addressing this issue was drawn up in 1980 and was accepted by Government, but legislation to implement it was not brought in (see Wildlife Section 1995). This plan is still regarded as relevant to the strategic issues which a new system of National Parks etc will need to address, and perhaps also to Environmentally Sensitive Areas under the Environmental Management Act.

3.60 In the meantime the lead on relating these matters to the Ramsar Convention falls in practice to the Forestry Division's Wildlife Section. However the Section's legal mandate needs updating to embrace such a function, being limited to matters in the 1958 Conservation of Wildlife Act. The current review of this should address the fact that the Section has no formal control over any lands or waters, whether State or private.

3.61 In fact the Section is not even legally constituted by the Act – it is an administrative sub-unit of the Forestry Division, in the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources. The Division's mission does not include responsibility for wildlife, and in some instances potentially runs counter to the needs of wildlife conservation.

3.62 The Section is not formally authorised to undertake a comprehensive wildlife conservation programme, and many laudable programmes which it does undertake are the result of personal initiatives by a small core of motivated staff. It has been further hampered by a small budget (in the past at least), lack of a well-recognised wildlife function in the professional structure of Government forestry service, and enforced re-posting of some key staff to other non-wildlife roles in the Division.

3.63 The relationship between policy (the NWP) and legislation discussed above is different in the case of the 1995 Environmental Management Act and the National Environmental Policy (NEP – in draft at the time of this project). Here the Act preceded the Policy, and indeed it is the Act itself which requires that the NEP be drawn up.

3.64 Section 31 of the Act requires that all Government entities shall conduct their operations and programmes in accordance with the NEP. The 1995 Act is an impressively progressive measure, at least at an enabling level; though much of the proof of its worth will lie with how it is resourced, operated, enforced, fleshed out by key sets of subsidiary Regulations and linked in practice with other statutes which still lie outside its less than totally comprehensive scope.

3.65 The draft NEP would appear to require further refining (either in itself, or together with the linked systems of nominated environmental contact-points in other Government agencies, Memoranda of Understanding, Supplemental Agreements and the proposed NEP Action Plan) before its final form rises to the demanding role set for it by the Act (see section 3.41 – 3.43 above for some further comments on this).

3.66 A final point relates to the constitutional position of the island of Tobago. Under legislation passed in December 1996, Tobago's government, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has what appears to be wide-ranging devolved authority over its own affairs, though this issue is subject to some confusion and political debate.

3.67 There is a plan to set up a Department of the Environment (one staff member in the THA Division of Tourism has since May 1997 had responsibility for environmental affairs), and Tobago envisages being able to enact provisions for environmental regulation which are specific to the island and may be different from those applying in Trinidad.

3.68 All of the policies and statutes discussed above assume a uniform application to both islands, and none makes reference to any special considerations which may apply to Tobago. This may become a point for discussion in future. The THA is likely to call for a specific role in consultations on draft new provisions, and perhaps separate formal ratification of them in some cases. Procedures for operating such a system have not yet been worked out. In the meantime, as from 1997 the THA has a representative on the National Wetland Committee, and hence a welcome avenue of input there.

3.69 In fact as a general concluding point, some of the 'linkage' issues which have been characterised above as incompletely covered in translating policy to legislation, are in practice somewhat less serious deficiencies than they appear on paper. This is because certain individuals occupy roles on several of the different committees and review groups etc which operate, and hence facilitate interchange on a more informal level.

4 National wetland policies from the international perspective

4.1 The Convention's preamble says that Contracting Parties are 'confident that the conservation of wetlands and their flora and fauna can be ensured by combining far-sighted national policies with coordinated international action'. (There could be no better expression of the theme of this report).

4.2 The 'wise use' guidelines have from the beginning suggested national wetland policies as a starting-point for putting the wise use concept into practice. Some general advice on the issue is given in the adopted guidelines and the subsequent 'additional guidance'. These texts can be used as a checklist of issues to consider in drawing up a policy, or against which to check an existing one.

4.3 There is strong interest in international exchange of experience and information on this subject. The initiative to develop a framework for development and implementation of national wetland policies which followed the technical papers and Recommendation 6.9 from the 6th Conference of Parties, and which is referred to in para 2.14 above, is usefully timed to allow a link with the current project.

4.4 An outline of the framework was prepared in October 1997 by C Rubec (Canada), P Mafabi (Uganda) and N Nathai-Gyan (Trinidad & Tobago), dealing with issues such as what is a wetland policy, steps towards developing one, (defining stakeholders, undertaking consultations etc), organisation of the policy document, and implementation. 'Case study' material is to be compiled exemplifying particular aspects.

4.5 During the current project, material was prepared by DEP for Trinidad & Tobago's further input to this exercise. Rec 6.9 and the 'framework' initiative have also provided a context for the questions addressed in section 3 above on how the international dimension helps, the pros and cons of separate policies on wetlands, and legislative aspects.

4.6 At the same time M Mahy at the Ramsar Bureau was collating information on national wetland policies in the European region prior to the Ramsar Pan-European regional meeting in June 1998. DEP has also made an input to this; and an involvement in this subject area is expected to continue in the run-up to the 7th Conference of Parties.

4.7 Clearly only a limited amount can be said that is universally applicable to all situations; but setting out some basic points and simply describing how different countries have gone about the process can be very helpful to others who have not begun it but would like to. Work such as this is perhaps of less use where National Wetland Policies are already well developed – but here too it is instructive to be aware of the range of practices and ideas which exist. Arrangements to collate and provide efficient access to the policy documents themselves should also be made.

4.8 The Ramsar Bureau and the Parties generally will benefit also from information reviewing the state of play with development of NWPs around the world, and a factual update of the position reported in 1996 will probably be presented at the 1999 Conference. It will be important for Contracting Parties to include good information on the issue in their national reports, due by 1 September 1998.

5 T & T's experience of using the Montreux Record and Management Guidance Procedure

The Record and the Procedure

5.1 The Montreux Record was established by Recommendation 4.8 of the 1990 Conference of Ramsar Parties, and formalised by the 1993 Conference in Resolution 5.4. It is a register of those Ramsar sites where 'changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring or are likely to occur'. Sites are only added at the request of the Contracting Party concerned.

5.2 The Management Guidance Procedure was conceived in 1988 and formalised by Conference Recommendation 4.7 in 1990. (At that time, and during its application in Trinidad & Tobago, it was known as the Monitoring Procedure: the name changed in 1996 and it will be referred to here as the MGP). The procedure generally involves problem-solving missions involving independent experts coordinated by the Bureau, with the aim of removing sites from the Montreux Record.

5.3 The MGP has only been activated approximately 20 times since its inception, and Trinidad & Tobago’s case was only the second in the Neotropics. The T & T case has therefore been important in building experience among all concerned about the effective use of this mechanism.

The Nariva Swamp

5.4 Nariva Swamp, T & T's only Ramsar site, was designated in December 1992. One of the largest freshwater wetlands in the Caribbean, it covers 90 sq km on the eastern side of Trinidad, and has the most varied vegetation of all wetlands in the country, including swamp forest, palm swamp, herbaceous swamp and mangrove woodland. It is important for waterfowl, and is the main wetland in Trinidad supporting anaconda and the threatened manatee.

5.5 The area has been occupied for a number of years by local people living sustainably by harvesting fish and molluscs and farming rice and vegetables on a small scale. Four sub-areas or 'sectors' include a 1940s rice-growing scheme at Plum Mitan, an area at Bois Neuf earmarked for possible expansion of this scheme, the Cocal/Kernahan area where small-scale vegetable and livestock production takes place, and the Bush Bush Wildlife Sanctuary, a prohibited area.

5.6 In recent years there has been an influx of large-scale commercial farmers illegally occupying parts of the swamp and farming rice. This has led to significant reduction of the natural vegetation, and effects from agrochemicals.

Activating the Procedure

5.7 The T & T Government delegation submitted a formal request for inclusion of Nariva on the Montreux Record during the June 1993 Ramsar Conference in Kushiro, Japan; and this was duly agreed. A document detailing habitat deterioration in the swamp was submitted the following month to the Bureau by the Government's Wildlife Section.

5.8 In January 1994, by letter to the Bureau from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources, T & T formally requested the application of the Management Guidance Procedure to the site. The Convention's Scientific & Technical Review Panel (STRP) considered the case to be a high priority for attention, and this fact was notified to T & T in March.

5.9 A visit to the area by the Bureau staff member with responsibility for the Neotropical Region then took place from 27 September to 3 October 1994, to scope the terms of reference for a full MGP mission. These were, principally:

  • to undertake field visits and meetings once the dry season was well advanced (April);
  • to evaluate the ecological condition of the wetland and the impacts of all types of resource use taking place in the four sectors of the site;
  • to evaluate potential mechanisms for sustained multiple use of the area by local communities, with mitigatory measures as necessary;
  • to examine ways of restoring vegetation in the interests of biodiversity conservation.

The MGP mission

5.10 The full mission took place from 26 April to 10 May 1995, funded by the MGP budget provided under the Convention. It involved an intensive period of work in the field by a three-person team comprising the Bureau staff officer and two consultants – a socio-ecologist from Puerto Rico, and a specialist in wetland rehabilitation and organic rice farming from Costa Rica. Government agencies and local community representatives were closely involved in the work; and NGOs and the media followed the story keenly. Participative community meetings with local farmers, local women etc were an important part of the approach.

The mission's findings

5.11 Ideally, findings might be discussed in country at the end of a MGP mission. In this case, a 102-page report was presented to the T & T Government in February 1996, and was circulated widely to others. In it the MGP team recognised the efforts which the Government was making for the conservation and restoration of Nariva, and suggested that some of the action already taking place or planned could be used as demonstration models elsewhere in T & T and more widely in the Caribbean.

5.12 However in order for the site to be removed from the Montreux Record, further steps were required. Particular problems were seen to arise from the land tenure situation of the site, the use of water resources and the complex administration of the area. There was a lack of a coherent conservation and socio-economic development policy for Nariva and the local communities which depend on it and influence it.

5.13 The report offered a total of 84 specific recommendations for action. It urged that no further loss of the swamp to agriculture should occur, and that planning measures should ensure that activities carried out are consistent with the wise use concept and take place only in the areas of least impact to the ecological character of the site. The preparation, for the swamp's catchment area, of a management plan, an economic evaluation and an environmental impact assessment (of any future cultivation in the Bois Neuf sector) were strongly recommended. New hydrological studies were seen as essential to guide conservation and wise use activities in the area, and a rationalisation of existing and proposed conservation designations and boundaries was suggested. Community participation, training and co-management were also discussed. The Government accepted these findings.

Action following the report, and access to funding

5.14 A key step was taken when in November 1996 the illegally-occupying large-scale rice-farmers were persuaded to vacate the area, amid high-profile attention from Government, the Courts, NGOs and the media. A major environmental impact assessment study was initiated in the summer of 1997 and is due to report in April 1998: this also aims to cover the development of a management plan and a monitoring programme. The Government is moving to regularise the tenure of the small farmers settled in the Plum Mitan sector.

5.15 Follow-up to the main mission has included a further visit by the Bureau's Neotropical regional coordinator in November 1997.

5.16 In 1993 T & T had applied for funds from what is now the Ramsar Small Grants Fund (SGF), for a preliminary assessment of management priorities and strategies at Nariva. That application was not approved, prior use of the MGP being favoured instead.

5.17 Following completion of the Management Guidance Procedure, T & T applied again to the SGF in 1996, for assistance towards the Nariva management plan by way of the EIA recommended in the MGP report, and a 'coherent conservation and socio-economic development policy' for the area. A sum of SFR 35,000 was sought as part-funding for this, with the remainder of the funds (SFR 25,000) to be provided by the T & T Government. (In the event this contribution was later significantly increased, so that the scale of the overall project reached TT$ 1 million, or SFR 230,000). The application was strongly supported by the Bureau and the STRP, on the grounds that:

  • the problem was urgent;
  • the proposal followed MGP recommendations;
  • the objectives were very clear;
  • the T & T authorities were contributing a share of the project costs;
  • there was a welcome community involvement aspect;
  • the project concerned practical action to solve problems; and
  • some initial actions were already in hand.

5.18 The Bureau commented that the proposal was a classic demonstration of the links between the Montreux Record, the Management Guidance Procedure and the Small Grants Fund. 'Both for its intrinsic value and for its symbolic importance for the Convention', it was commended as the highest priority of all the projects presented to the autumn 1996 meeting of the Convention's Standing Committee, and was duly approved.

5.19 In addition to the funds put forward to match the SGF grant, the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources in 1997 allocated a sum of TT$ 500,000 for a project on management of wetlands more generally in T & T to be implemented by the Wildlife Section, Forestry Division, involving activities such as public education, biological surveys, wetland management plans and wildlife law enforcement. This is conceived as a contribution to delivering aspects of another key instrument promoted under Ramsar, namely the National Wetland Policy produced by T & T's National Wetland Committee in 1996–7, and it has capitalised on the heightened awareness and momentum generated by the events described above.

Key beneficial features of the T & T experience

5.20 Overall, those involved view T & T's experience as an extremely positive example of some of the best benefits which these processes offer. In summary:

(a) T & T's national report to the 1996 Ramsar Conference referred to the MGP as having produced tangible benefits which 'helped to crystallise the importance of the Convention at national level'.

(b) Prompt and energetic progress with the MGP, the National Wetland Committee, the National Wetland Policy, the Wetland Management Project and the Small Grants Fund application within the same period of time allowed each of these to be mutually reinforcing and for synergies between them to be exploited to best effect.

(c) The MGP made good use of Ramsar's international networks to find the right neutral specialist experts, from within the Neotropical region, to focus on the issues of concern in a way tailored to T & T's particular needs. The preliminary scoping visit was highly valued. Prior efforts by those in T & T to arrange logistics, literature etc were also important.

(d) The MGP was instrumental in catalysing the EIA and management planning work now underway at Nariva, which will be a vital part of providing for a sustainable future for the area.

(e) Prior to the MGP, overseas (and some domestic) involvements in conservation and management issues at Nariva had been viewed with some scepticism by local communities, and by some others too. The Ramsar mission was the first such initiative which combined the use of outside experts with genuine community participation in exploring future options for the area. The personal presence of the MGP team including the Bureau staff member for a reasonable period 'on the ground' was a key factor. (This ethos is now also prominent in other work there, e.g., by the University of the West Indies).

(f) The whole MGP process and events associated with it have built significantly higher levels of awareness generally in T & T about wetlands and wise use issues.

(g) Practical action is underway to resolve conflicts and apply durable solutions.

(h) The MGP report was funded by the Convention, and was then the primary basis for securing additional financial support from the Ramsar Small Grants Fund for wetland work in T & T, and it has helped catalyse other funding too.

(i) The MGP is a straightforward procedure to activate, and there is a desire by many to see it applied more frequently. Many more sites than those currently listed in the Montreux Record are facing ecological change around the world, and would benefit from the application of the Procedure. Each step must be requested by the Contracting Party – it cannot be imposed, and the MGP’s outcomes are thus 'owned' completely by the countries affected.

6 Other assistance provided

6.1 Time during the project was also spent on the following:

(a) Major inputs to drafting revisions to the National Wetland Policy (including origination of sections on institutional and legal matters, education, training and capacity-building), steering its revision through the National Wetland Committee, and overseeing final edits to it into a form to proceed for endorsement by Cabinet.

(b) Drafted T & T contribution to international 'framework' document on good practice in national wetland policies, pursuant to Ramsar Conference Recommendation 6.9, as a contribution to the 7th Conference of Contracting Parties in 1999.

(c) Presentations, with Ramsar Bureau Neotropical Regional Coordinator to seminar on wetlands hosted by Wildlife Section, Forestry Division and National Wetland Committee: covering 'Project on implementation of the Ramsar Convention in Trinidad & Tobago and preliminary findings' and 'Environmentally sensitive decision-making and EIA'.

(d) Presentation, with Ramsar Bureau Neotropical Regional Coordinator, on the Ramsar Convention, to seminar for Nariva Swamp EIA project team and others at Institute of Marine Affairs.

(e) Lecture to Eastern Caribbean Institute of Agriculture and Forestry year 2 foresters Wildlife Management course, term 1, on 'Environmentally sensitive land-use decision-making and EIA'.

(f) Addressed meeting of staff of Wildlife Section, Forestry Division, on Ramsar Convention.

(g) Comments to Wildlife Review Committee on draft schedules etc in proposed revision of Conservation of Wildlife legislation.

(h) Comments on proposed review of 1981 Forest Resources Policy, including co-authoring of 'wildlife principles' for incorporation in the policy.

(i) Co-authored treatment for feature film/video on wetlands of Trinidad & Tobago.

(j) Held discussions with Tobago authorities to help promote the case for listing of Buccoo Reef/Bon Accord Lagoon complex (and associated wetlands) as a Ramsar site.

7 References

Anon (in press) Convention on Wetlands: UK targets for the Strategic Plan 1997–2002. Unpublished draft of jointly-authored paper to be issued by Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Barnaud, G (1996) Implementation of the French Wetland Action Plan. IUCN Wetlands Programme Newsletter No 13, Summer 1996: 2.

Cabral, JM (1997) Environmental Management Strategy for Infrastructure Agencies in Developing Countries. Paper for 17th Annual Meeting of the International Association for Impact Assessment, New Orleans, USA 28–31 May 1997.

Claridge, G and O'Callaghan, B (Eds) (1997) Community Involvement in Wetland Management: Lessons From the Field. Incorporating Proceedings of Workshop 3: Wetlands, Local People and Development, of the International Conference on Wetlands and Development, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 9–13 October 1995. Pub Wetlands International – Asia Pacific, Kuala Lumpur.

Cullinan, C (1995) Legal and Institutional Aspects of Integrating the Fisheries Division into the Development Planning and Approval Process. FAO report.

Environmental Management Authority, Trinidad & Tobago (1997) National Environmental Policy – draft, June 1997.

ffrench, RP (1991) A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. 2nd Edition. Christopher Helm, London.

Frazier, S (1996) An Overview of the World's Ramsar Sites. Wetlands International publication 39. 58pp.

Gordon, C and McKenzie, A (1996) Towards a Policy and Regulations for Jamaica's Wetlands. Proceedings of 6th Meeting of the Conference of Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention, Brisbane, Australia, 19–27 March 1996, Vol 10/12A: 53–55.

IUCN (1992) Protected Areas of the World – A Review of National Systems – Vol 4: Nearctic and Tropical.

IUCN, UNEP and WWF (1980) The World Conservation Strategy: living resource conservation for sustainable development. IUCN/UNEP/WWF.

James, C, Nathai-Gyan, N and Hislop, G (1986) Trinidad and Tobago. In Scott, DA and Carbonell, M (1986) A Directory of Neotropical Wetlands. IUCN/IWRB.

de Klemm, C (1993) Legal background for the implementation of Article 5 of the Ramsar Convention. Proceedings of the 5th Meeting of the Conference of Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention, Kushiro, Japan, 9–16 June 1993: 335–373.

Mafabi, P (1994) Development of a national policy for wetland conservation and management – the Ugandan experience. Paper presented to African Regional Meeting of Ramsar Convention Contracting Parties, Nakuru, Kenya, 29 August – 1 September 1994.

Mafabi, P (1996) Implementation of National Wetlands Policies: Opportunities and Challenges. Proceedings of 6th Meeting of the Conference of Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention, Brisbane, Australia, 19–27 March 1996, Vol 10/12A: 30–36.

Mahy, M (1997) Feasibility of Co-managing a Wetland of International Importance: the Case of the Nariva Swamp, Trinidad. Unpublished MES thesis, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. 176pp.

Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources (undated) Towards the Development of a Management Plan for the Wise Use of the Nariva Swamp of Trinidad. Ramsar Wetland Conservation Fund Project proposal.

Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources (1996) A national parks and wildlife conservation system for the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. (Paper produced by consultants for the Ministry).

Nathai-Gyan, N (1995) National Report for Trinidad and Tobago on Implementation of the Ramsar Convention (Triennium 1993–96). Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources, Trinidad and Tobago.

Ntambirweki, J (1997) Modalities for the implementation of the Ramsar Convention through national legislations in Africa. Paper for West African Sub-Regional Meeting of Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention, Dakar, Senegal, 12–14 May 1997.

OECD (1996) Guidelines for Aid Agencies for Improved Conservation and Sustainable Use of Tropical and Sub-Tropical Wetlands. OECD/DAC Guidelines on Aid and Environment No.9.

Pritchard, DE (1990) The Ramsar Convention in the Caribbean, with special emphasis on Anguilla. RSPB sabbatical report. 146pp.

Pritchard, DE (1992) Designation and Protection of Ramsar Sites in Bermuda. RSPB. 77pp.

Pritchard, DE (1993) Ramsar National Committees. Overview paper for 5th Meeting of the Conference of Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention, Kushiro, Japan, June 1993.

Pritchard, DE (1996) Environmental Impact Assessment: Towards Guidelines for Adoption under the Ramsar Convention. Proceedings of 6th Meeting of the Conference of Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention, Brisbane, Australia, 19–27 March 1996, Vol 10/12A: 66–78.

Pritchard, DE (1997) International Cooperation in Applying Environmental Impact Assessment to Wetland Conservation. Paper presented to 17th Annual Meeting of the International Association for Impact Assessment, New Orleans, USA 28–31 May 1997.

Ramcharan, E and ffrench, RP (1988) The status and distribution of wetland-dependent birds in Trinidad. Journal of the Trinidad Field Naturalists’ Club 1987–88: 36–40.

Ramsar Convention Bureau (1996a) Nariva Swamp, Trinidad and Tobago. Monitoring Procedure final report. 102pp.

Ramsar Convention Bureau (1996b) Overview of the Implementation of the Convention in the Neotropical Region. Paper INFO 6.10 for 6th Meeting of the Conference of Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention, Brisbane, Australia, March 1996.

Ramsar Convention Bureau (1996c) Summary Report of Technical Session A: Wise Use of Wetlands, National Wetland Policies, and Other Policies Affecting Wetlands. Proceedings of 6th Meeting of the Conference of Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention, Brisbane, Australia, 19–27 March 1996, Vol 10/12A: 2–5.

Ramsar Convention Bureau (1996d) Strategic Plan 1997–2002. Proceedings of 6th Meeting of the Conference of Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention, Brisbane, Australia, 19–27 March 1996, Vol 5/12.

Ramsar Convention Bureau (1997) The Ramsar Convention Manual – A Guide to the Convention on Wetlands. 2nd edition. 161pp.

Rubec, CDA (1996) Status of National Wetland Policy Development in Ramsar Nations. Proceedings of 6th Meeting of the Conference of Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention, Brisbane, Australia, 19–27 March 1996, Vol 10/12A: 22–29.

Scott, DA and Carbonell, M (1986) A Directory of Neotropical Wetlands. IUCN/IWRB.

Trinidad and Tobago National Wetland Committee (in prep: draft 1996) National Policy on Wetland Conservation for Trinidad and Tobago.

Wildlife Section, Forestry Division (1993) Historical perspectives on habitat destruction in the Nariva Swamp, Trinidad. A Wildlife Section Issues Paper.

Wildlife Section, Forestry Division (1995: draft) A strategic plan for conserving the wildlife of Trinidad & Tobago.

Yáñez-Arencibia, A, Lomelf, DZ and Fandiño, VS (1996) Present State of Environmental Impact Assessment in the Caribbean Region. Paper presented to 16th Annual Meeting of the International Association for Impact Assessment, Estoril, Portugal 17–23 June 1996. Vol II: 893.

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