World Wetlands Day 2003: France


Wetland Colloquium in Lille

Under the theme "Les zones humides: connaître, évaluer, gérer, sensibiliser" (Wetlands: knowledge, valuation, management, awareness), a colloquium was organized by the Water Management Authority of the Artois-Picardie basin at the Conference Palace of Lille. This conference, in honour of World Wetlands Day, brought together more than 400 people: students, technicians, reserve managers, water engineers, administrators, local and regional councilors, and others.

Marie-Odile Guth, of France's renamed Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development (formerly for Spatial Planning and the Environment), presented the latest news about progress with the second phase of the National Action Plan for Wetlands, for which she acts as coordinator. Professor Annick Delelis of Lille University provided a useful overview on many aspects of wetland inventory and assessment, at local, regional and international level, illustrated with the transboundary basin of the Escaut-Schelde river, originating in northern France, flowing through Belgium, and entering the North Sea through a large estuary in the Netherlands. The director of the regional environment bureau of the Ministry in the Picardie region, Laurent Roy, presented an overview of those public policies affecting wetlands, and the Ramsar Bureau was invited to put wetland conservation into a European perspective, by highlighting some historical facts and stressing new challenges and the Resolutions adopted by COP8. Two panel discussions included a handful of elected people, farmers, hunters, administrators and NGO representatives. They debated the different needs of wetlands inventory and assessment at regional scale and the best means to implement good practice on the ground.

The conference was putting the final touch on four previous seminars, dealing in more detail with the four themes evoked in the title: wetland knowledge, valuation, management and awareness. While a rare blizzard was howling outside of the conference palace and covering the city with snow, the many participants discovered during the brand new traveling exhibit "Journey to the heart of our wetlands" focusing on the hydrological functions of wetlands, while not forgetting to recall also, with many interactive displays, their importance for biodiversity and cultural traditions.

-- reported by Tobias Salathé, Ramsar
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