Ramsar and reponses to natural disasters
Discussions of the tsunami of December 2004 at CBD workshop in Italy
At a side event during the Convention on Biological Diversity's First Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Protected Areas, 13- 17 June 2005, Montecatini, Italy, the Ramsar Secretary General, Peter Bridgewater, joined a panel of four on the role of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) in coastal disasters, focusing on the tsunami of December 2004. Other panelists included the Executive Secretary of the CBD, Hamdallah Zedan, Prof. Stefano Tinti of the University of Bologna, and HE Kitti Limskul, Vice Minister of the Office of the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand. The event was chaired by On. Roberto Tortoli, Vice Minister for the Environment and Territory of Italy.
The side event focused on the biophysical effects of the December tsunami, looking at the earthquake's origin, possibilities for early warning systems, a poignant display of the human tragedy involved, and how the MEAs can respond now and in the future.
The Secretary General's presentation emphasized what Ramsar might be able to contribute to helping restoration efforts and providing the sorts of guidance which might aid in preventing future coastal disasters, whether of seismic origin or climatic. It is clear that the MEAS, especially the CBD and Ramsar, can play a more proactive role than previously foreseen.
In this sense the draft Resolution on natural disasters reviewed by the Ramsar Standing Committee for presentation to the 9th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties, in Uganda in November 2005, will be an important step forward in developing the Convention's response to such events. The range of responses can include mobilizing restoration work on destroyed coastal ecosystems, building adequate knowledge management systems, and promoting coastal green belts as buffers.
The participants agreed that the occasion was a very useful discussion of institutional responses to these unprecedented sorts of events, and how such responses can be made more effective in future.