Himalayan wetland conservation action plan

25/09/2003


Framework for an Action Plan on
"Wetland Conservation and Wise Use in the Himalayan High Mountains"

Kathmandu, Nepal, August 2003

I. Preamble

Conservation of the high Himalayan mountain wetlands has become an increasingly significant global issue in recent years, especially as they function as world water towers. In 2002, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) International, the Ramsar Bureau, and the Government of the People's Republic of China, successfully organized a regional workshop in Urumqi, China, in August 2002 on 'Conservation of High Altitude Wetlands in the Himalayas'. This workshop marked the initiation of a regional cooperation on wetland conservation in the high mountain areas with a wide range of participation from countries in the Himalayan-Tianshan continuum. The workshop resulted in the 'Urumqi Call' for

  • exchanging information and experiences in conserving high altitude wetlands;
  • initiating methodologies and tools for identification of suitable Ramsar sites;
  • strengthening regional cooperation with specific steps to continue the process.

Recognizing the importance of mountain wetlands, the Ramsar COP8 in November 2002 also passed Resolution VIII.12 calling for conservation and wise use of mountain wetlands.

In order to implement the Urumqi Call and the Ramsar Resolution VIII.12, WWF International, the Ramsar Bureau and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) jointly organized a follow-up workshop on 'Wetland Conservation and Wise Use in the Himalayan High Mountains' from August 30 to September 1, 2003, in Kathmandu. The workshop was attended by 34 participants from 11 countries comprising government representatives from Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, and Kyrgyzstan and representatives of national and international agencies and institutions including the World Conservation Union (IUCN), Wetlands International, National Institute of Environmental Studies in Japan, International Institute for Geo-information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) of the Netherlands, The Mountain Institute (TMI), WWF national offices of India, Pakistan, and China, Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology (China), and Jawahar Lal University (India). Government representatives from Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Tajikistan expressed an interest in being involved in the process but were unable to attend the meeting.

II. Goals and Objectives

The overall goal of the workshop was to strengthen regional cooperation on the conservation and sustainable use of high mountain wetlands in the Himalayan region.

Specific objectives were:

  • to strengthen the regional network initiated in the Urumqi workshop;
  • to identify sites that can be declared as Ramsar sites, with an emphasis on trans-boundary cooperation;
  • to seek a consensus on establishing a regional center (on wetland conservation in the Himalayan high mountains); and
  • to discuss and approve a concept note for further development of a joint project for water resource management of highland lakes.

III. Agreed Outcomes and Follow-up Actions

Geographic coverage: Participants agreed, after thorough discussion, that the geographic coverage of this regional initiative would be the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) and Central Asian mountain regions. Thematically the initiative will focus on highland wetlands, regardless of the altitudinal and latitudinal differences. The current initiative will include the geographic region involving the 15 countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Publication of the Urumqi 2002 workshop report: The report will be finalized for uploading on the Ramsar, WWF, and ICIMOD websites for wide distribution by mid-October 2003. Countries and participants are invited to confirm the contents of the draft report by 30 September 2003.

List of the Ramsar and potential Ramsar sites in the high mountains: Countries have agreed that the list of sites identified in Urumqi will be further examined and an action plan will be prepared to include new sites in the future. Specifically the following commitments were made:

  • China will declare 22 sites by the Ramsar CoP-9 and about 30 more sites will be declared by 2010;
  • India will declare three sites by CoP-9 and about 10 more sites will be added by 2010;
  • WWF-Pakistan offered assistance to the Government of Pakistan to declare six sites by CoP9;
  • the Kyrgyz Republic submitted information on two sites to the Ramsar Bureau during the workshop for Ramsar site listing;
  • Bhutan will aim to accede to the Convention and designate sites; and
  • IUCN-Nepal will work with the Government of Nepal to identify suitable sites.

Transboundary sites: Countries emphasized the need to work on transboundary wetland sites, in particular to list them as Ramsar Sites. The following was agreed.

  • Pangongsar: Joint efforts will be explored by India and China to exchange information on the status of the lake. If possible the two countries, with the assistance of WWF and ICIMOD, will organise a technical meeting.
  • Chatyr-Kol: Kyrgyzstan and China will explore the possibility of joint action on this lake.
  • Preparing a scoping paper: Ramsar, WWF, ICIMOD, and Wetlands International will take the initiative to prepare a scoping paper on the transboundary high altitude wetland sites in the region. The paper will contain a preliminary list of potential Ramsar sites in the region whose geographic area extends into more than one country. The scoping paper will also contain broad guidelines for initiating joint action for conserving these transboundary sites.

Directory of High Mountain Wetlands of the HKH and Central Asia: Following the agreement at the Urumqi workshop on the urgent need to prepare a preliminary directory of high altitude wetlands in the HKH and Central Asia region, all the participating countries at the meeting agreed that there is an urgent need to complete this work. The one page format developed at the Urumqi workshop will be revised by the Ramsar Bureau and circulated to all the countries to guide them in preparing the directories. The directory will be completed before the next regional meeting.

Highland lake initiative: Entrusted by the Ramsar Bureau and WWF International, ICIMOD presented a draft project concept note on 'Freshwater Resource Management and Wise Use of Highland Lakes in Great Asian Mountains'. Participants agreed in principle on the concept note, and suggested new components and ways to go forward for further development of a revised concept note by the end of October 2003. Efforts will be made to prepare a full proposal by the end of 2003.

Regional Center: Countries agreed in principle that there is a need to establish a regional center for high mountain wetlands. It was decided that further details of the regional center (such as the scope, functions, location, and others, and opportunities to link this to the highland lake initiative) would be discussed by a task force comprising the following members: Chief Conservator of Forests (Bangladesh), Mr. Raling Ngawang (Bhutan), Mr. Bao Daming (China), Mr. S. Kaul (India), Ms. Daw Lwin Lwin Thein (Myanmar), focal point of DNPWC (Nepal), Mr. Umeed Khalid (Pakistan), Mr. Biksham Gujja (WWF Int'l), Mr. Guangchun Lei (Ramsar Bureau), Mr. Taej Mundkur (Wetlands International), Mr. Sameer Karki (IUCN Nepal), Mr. Richard Friend (IUCN Regional). Coordination will be by Mr. Jian Liu, together with Mr. Basanta Shrestha (ICIMOD). Advisers to the task force will be Ms. Archna Chatterjee (WWF India), Mr. Lifeng Li (WWF China), Mr. Richard Garstang (WWF Pakistan), Mr. Lhakpa Sherpa (TMI), Mr. Masataka Watanabe (NIES), Mr. Jan de Leeuw (ITC), Mr. V. Subramanian (JNU), and Mr. Li Shijie (CAS). The task force will bring out a detailed concept paper for the regional center by the end of Nov 2003.

Web site: ICIMOD, WWF, and the Ramsar Bureau will start a new page on their websites with information on the initiative.

Database on water birds in the high mountains: Wetlands International has agreed to work with partners to establish a database of water birds and important wetlands in the high mountains.

Proceedings: ICIMOD will prepare a draft proceedings of this workshop which will include a brief summary with the presentations as annexes. Before finally circulating this document, it will be sent to the participants to make any necessary corrections in their presentations. The final document will be circulated before the end of December 2003 and placed on the website of ICIMOD, the Ramsar Bureau, and WWF.

Continuation of the Regional Forum: It was agreed that this Regional Forum should meet again within a year; the final dates and venue will be decided later.

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