Climate change and deltas -- seminar in Italy, 8-9 October 2003

15/10/2003


"Climatic change and foreseeable impacts on deltas: a new challenge for the conservation of protected areas"

. . . was the title of a seminar organized by the Ramsar site managers network "Delta chiama Delta" (Delta calls Delta, cf. www.ramsar.org/caxref:2390 ) in the small lagoon town of Comacchio, seat of the administration of the Po Delta Regional Park of Italy's Emilia-Romagna region. The Italian focal point of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Vincenzo Ferrara, professors Roland Paskoff of the Lumière University of Lyon and Christofer d'Elia of Albany University (USA) and other experts presented the likely impacts of climate change on coastal wetlands and the adaptations needed and responses in preparation, particularly along Italy's Adriatic coast (with further presentations by Stefano Moretti, Alessandro Capra, Giovanni Gabbianelli and others). Ramsar's European coordinator presented the essence of Resolution VIII.3 and the underlying information documents prepared for Ramsar COP8 (Valencia 2002) on 'Climate change and wetlands: impacts, adaptation and mitigation', as well as ideas from IUCN's brochure "Change - adaptation of water resources management to climate change". The seminar was followed by a short boat trip to the Valli di Comacchio, the coastal lagoons transformed for fish farming and waterfowl hunting since ancient times, including a visit of the former eel harvesting and canning facilities at Serilla Casone, now turned into a historical museum and visitor centre evoking the many cultural and natural heritage values of the Comacchio lagoon Ramsar Site.

The seminar and associated events (including a succulent lunch based on the lagoon's rich resources) was offered by Delta chiama Delta and the Po Delta Regional Park to the participants of the 6th MedCoast Conference held during the days before and after in the nearby city of Ravenna. This conference attracted several hundred specialists on coastal zone issues from the Mediterranean and beyond (cf. www.medcoast.org.tr). The MedCoast organization also delivers specific training on coastal zone planning and management, besides organizing regular technical and scientific conferences. This is an area of common interest with Ramsar's own MedWet initiative for the Mediterranean region (cf. www.medwet.org) where further synergies could easily be developed.

During the seminar, the participants adopted the "Charter of Comacchio" prepared by Delta chiama Delta. Its text gives due recognition to the ecological and socio-economical values of delta areas and stipulates ten action points in accordance with the European Union action plan in favour of biodiversity that can be summarized as follows:

1. The protection and valorization of the environment must become a transversal factor of all sectoral policies.
2. The application of environmental protection law must be accelerated and improved.
3. The sustainability of development plans and programmes need to be verified.
4. Water management in delta areas needs to take into account the situation in the entire hydrological basin upstream.
5. Human interference to prevent coastal erosion has to be as close as possible to natural processes.
6. Economic instruments are needed to encourage sustainable methods of production and consumption.
7. Raising public awareness and citizens' involvement in planning processes is essential.
8. Indicators need to be established to prepare for environmental accountancy.
9. Environmental data need to be monitored with adequate structures and procedures.
10. Scientific and technological research on environment and sustainable development needs to be promoted and its results widely disseminated.

Furthermore, the offices of the Po Delta Regional Park in Comacchio served the local action group "Delta 2000" (cf. www.deltaduemila.net) for a meeting with potential partners in a network of European wetlands and Ramsar sites that would be established with financial support from the European Union's LEADER+ budget for transnational cooperation in rural areas. Potential project partners active in local development issues in the Po Delta, Mantova province further upstream, Rovigo (Veneto region), around Trasimeno lake (Umbria region),in the Spanish Ebro Delta, the North Satakunta mires and lakes in Finland, and Flevoland province in the Netherlands had the opportunity to discuss their respective contributions towards four project aims: valorization of sea salt works and their products (including biodiversity), development of birdwatching and nature tourism, promotion of traditional gastronomy based on wetland products, and the valorization of historical traditions.

These gatherings are a sign of the many bottom-up activities generated in the Po Delta area by the Emilia-Romagna Regional Park and its many partners nearby and abroad. They present encouraging signs for the establishment of very active networks of wetlands (and Ramsar Sites) managers to exchange experience and lessons to be learned.

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