World Wetlands Day 2004 -- Cuba

04/02/2004


For Immediate Release: Contact: Rachel Bruhnke, 415 575-5531
February 2, 2004

U.S.-Cuba "Sister Swamps" Celebrates Anniversary and Achievement

On Feb 2, World Wetlands Day, Global Exchange's Sister Swamps (Pantanos Hermanos) Initiative celebrates its one-year anniversary and the initial success of the project. The San Francisco-based human rights organization began "Sister Swamps" as part of its Eco-Cuba Exchange, a program developed to raise awareness and promote collaboration around environmental issues between Cuba and the US.

"Americans are consistently impressed with what Cubans are doing to conserve their wetlands, especially in terms of citizen education, community involvement and public policy", said Rachel Bruhnke, Eco-Cuba Coordinator. "We think Sister Swamps can be helpful in wetland conservation work in both Cuba and in the United States. It is both a scientific and a goodwill project, and has been enthusiastically received by participants in both countries."

In the year since the launch of Sister Swamps, Eco Cuba Exchange has sent over 100 participants on trips to Cienega de Zapata, the Caribbean's largest wetland ecosystem, doubling the number of American scientists and professionals visiting the region in 2003. The project also cooperates with the American Birding Association to promote interaction between US and Cuban youth to protect wetland bird habitat, and to provide environmental education materials to Cuban schoolchildren.

The Global Exchange's project also co-sponsored an International Wetlands Symposium in 2003 with CITMA (Ministry of Science Technology and the Environment) and with the Ramsar Wetlands Convention. The encounter was a fruitful exchange between US and Cuban engineers, focusing mainly on constructed wetlands as alternative wastewater treatment in small and medium-sized communities. Currently, discussions have been initiated between Louisiana State University and CITMA on a potential bi-lateral research agreement on wetlands protection and restoration.

"We at LSU are very excited about the potential for collaboration with Cuban scientists on wetlands research," says LSU Coastal Fisheries Professor, Dr. Jim Cowan. "The Louisiana coastal zone and Cuba's south coast share many similarities with respect to the importance of wetlands as fisheries habitat, and in other such diverse issues as water quality, storm protection and sustainability. Louisiana's ongoing problems with coastal land loss and Cuba's recent acute interests in wetlands makes this collaboration very timely indeed."

Despite the recent increase in restrictions by the Bush administration on US travel to Cuba, and on the publishing in the US of Cuban scientific work, Global Exchange will continue to design, promote and implement cooperative programs between our two countries.

For more information on Sister Swamps and supporting US-Cuban cooperation on the environment, please contact Rachel Bruhnke, Eco-Cuba Exchange, at (415) 575 5531 or at rachel@globalexchange.org.

http://www.globalexchange.org/

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