News from Chile's Salar del Huasco Ramsar site

23/05/2006

Chile's "Salar del Huasco" Ramsar site: a new experience in conservation of High Andean wetlands

Since 2002, the Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo (CED) has been executing the project "Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Management of the Salar del Huasco (Región de Tarapacá, Chile)". Its objective is to create the conditions and execute the necessary actions for the conservation and sustainable management of one of the more emblematic High Andean wetlands in Chile for its biological and cultural diversity. This initiative, a follow-up to a 2002 Ramsar Small Grants Fund project, is financed by GEF and implemented by UNDP. In the four years of its execution, a new mechanism for public-private cooperation has been unfolded - the first experience in the country that is giving a conservation alternative in relevant environments that are not included in the national protected area system. Although the Salar del Huasco has been a Ramsar site (6,000 hectares) since 1996, the conditions for its sustainable management have been obtained in recent years by means of the work of a Public-Private Committee, composed of more than 30 organizations and institutions, including indigenous Aymaras families, agricultural associations, the Municipality of Pica, public services, and companies from the mining and tourism sectors. Its work has been led by a Technical Secretariat formed by the Provincial Government of Iquique and the regional offices of the National Commission for the Environment (CONAMA), the National Forestry Corporation (CONAF), the General Water Office (DGA), and the Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG). Thanks to this effort, almost 120,000 hectares of the Salar del Huasco's basin have been designated for conservation purposes, creating a new official protected area within the framework of the national land system of protected areas led by the Ministry of National Lands within the framework of the National Strategy and Action Plan on Biodiversity.

Among the main accomplishments obtained by this initiative, there are: a) an institutional arrangement for biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of the wetland by its designation as a protected area and its future concession; b) a Management Plan for biodiversity conservation, which is in an early implementation phase; c) Management Guidelines and a zoning proposal for the basin in accordance with its biological and cultural diversity values, based on preferred uses; d) strategies for inter-institutional cooperation, citizen participation, institutional capacity strengthening, and mobilizing resources to assure the technical and financial sustainability in the administration of the protected area; and e) programs on environmental education, ecotourism, and good management practices for wetland uses and replicable approaches in other wetlands, to become a reference in the Regional Strategy on Conservation and Sustainable Use of High Andean Wetlands.

For more information contact Guillermo Espinoza / Fernando Valenzuela, Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo (CED), at medioambiente@ced.cl or visit www.ced.cl/proyectogef.htm.

Ramsar's Margarita Astràlaga and the Salar del Huasco, 2002

Earlier story on the above project, 2002

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