10th Wetland Management Course of RIZA/WATC successfully under way


World's leading wetland management course on Ramsar principles

Ramsar's Tobias Salathé represented the Ramsar Bureau at the opening ceremony of the 10th International Course on Wetland Management run by the Dutch Water Management Agency's (RIZA) Wetland Advisory and Training Centre (WATC) in Lelystad. Despite somewhat more difficult logistics (part of the RIZA office building was hit by a fire earlier this year), this edition of the course is likely to be a very successful one, based on the long experience accumulated by RIZA staff and course consultants over the past ten years. This year's group of participants (aged 18 to 45) is particularly promising, wetland managers, reserve administrators, NGO educators and CEPA people, and others from Brazil (2), Bulgaria (1), China (2), Georgia (1), India (2), Lithuania (1), Mongolia (1), Philippines (3), Russia (2), Senegal (1), Switzerland (1), Turkey (1), and Ukraine (2). Gerard Boere, representing Wetlands International (which is supporting several participants) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of The Netherlands, was also at the opening, along with Bart Fokkens (director of WATC), Bouke Ottow (course leader), Vincent Wigbels (course coordinator) and Frank Alberts (with an introductory lecture on management planning). Carolina Hazin (member of the Brazilian delegation to Ramsar COP8 and other Ramsar meetings), a graduate of last year's course, is acting as a mentor to the course participants.

The good news is that this course stands as an international reference for wetland training in Ramsar principles and practice, and has been improved ever since its first edition ten years ago. The alumni of this course (in total about 200 from 62 countries) form a network of wetland management experts and maintain remarkable contacts as an informal association (for example, there were reunion gatherings during the European Ramsar meeting in 2001 and during COP8). Many of them have also worked closely over the years with the Ramsar Bureau, for example, as members of our Standing Committee, as focal points, and as Interns in the Ramsar Bureau.

The bad news is that, as a result of shifting priorities within the government, this will probably be the last year for the successful International Course on Wetland Management (its companion, the International Course on Wetland Restoration, now in its fourth year, will probably continue at least into next year as well). There is some hope that the loss can be partially made up by support for regional courses built upon the same model; this is already the case with the East African Wetland Management Course, based upon Ramsar's New Guidelines for management planning, offered by the Kenya Wildlife Service in Naivasha (this year, 17 September - 28 October), in conjunction with RIZA.

Deputy Secretary General Nick Davidson will be attending the graduation ceremonies on 1 October and representing the Convention's Secretary General, who is ex officio chair of the Course's steering committee, and he will be underlining the extraordinarily high value of this course and the importance that the Ramsar Bureau attaches to the fact that these efforts should be continued in a even more efficient way.

Vincent Wigbels explaining briefly the management of Oostvaardersplassen RS next to Lelystad

Bouke Ottow preparing the participants, well equipped with dark green WATC sweaters for the coming autumn season, for a personal introduction session to get to one another

The 2003 course brochures are available at http://ramsar.org/watc_courses_2003.htm. [since removed]

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