Ramsar and South Africa: Two Case Studies

This paper was presented in March 1996 to Technical Session A of the 6th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties in Brisbane, and is reprinted here from volume 10/12 of the Brisbane Proceedings. It provides an excellent summary of the Ramsar Convention's intervention in two important cases of threatened wetland sites, St. Lucia and Langebaan, both in South Africa. References can be found at the end of the paper.

"Human Population Growth, Land-Use Planning and Wise Wetland Management: a Challenge for the Future"

Allan E. F. Heydorn
WWF - South Africa

We will soon be entering the 21st century and the human population in many countries will be facing conflicts and decisions of critical importance to survival. At global level, the increase in the world's overall human population was 88 million/annum in 1987. In 1995 this figure had risen to 91 million/annum. In South Africa, at a current growth rate of 2% per annum, it can be expected that the human population will double from 40 million in 1995 to 80 million by the year 2025 (Anon, 1995).

We are therefore reaching a stage at which, in many parts of the world, the human population is outstripping the resources required, first, for maintenance of quality of life and, thereafter, for survival. The resources are primarily water, food, energy and living space. Closely associated with these are the need for jobs, industry and the infrastructure without which modern society cannot operate.

Of central and cardinal importance is water, for without water no life is possible and no human requirements can be met. In all countries of the world, protection of the mechanisms and processes governing the natural water cycle, must therefore be at the very highest level of priority in overall land-use planning and management. Nowhere is the setting of this priority more important than in Africa, where arid and semi-arid conditions prevail over such vast tracts of land.

Wetlands are of core significance in the processes governing the water cycle, and this underscores the importance of the task of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance - Ramsar. Tom Kabii, in the Foreword to the Proceedings of the African Regional Meeting, held in Nakuru, Kenya from 29 August to 1 September 1994 (Ramsar, 1995) summarizes the nature and importance of wet-lands in Africa as follows:

Africa has diverse wetland types which support large and diverse numbers of animal and plant species. They are a source of livelihood to large human populations for supply of water, for domestic and industrial uses, drinking sites for animals, and provision of material for firewood and construction.

Kabii therefore summarizes in succinct but powerful form the key role of wetlands in ecological processes, in maintenance of biological diversity and in meeting basic human needs. A stronger motivation for the incorporation of wetland protection in overall land-use planning and management procedures can hardly be given.

However, recognition of this need also poses a dilemma in countries in which there are strong demands for job creation and which are being rapidly industrialized. South Africa is frequently described as the industrial powerhouse of Africa. Perceptions of job availability through industry attract thousands of immigrants from other parts of Africa - legal and illegal. South Africa's own population is burgeoning. The need for protecting the natural resource base, especially water, is clearly recognized by government, industry and many private individuals. But without jobs, people go hungry and the pressure for development is therefore great and increasing.

Conflicting demands create a dilemma for land-use planning and the execution of policy. To illustrate this point, emphasis will be given in this paper to coastal wetlands which are of importance not only to terrestrial ecosystems, but also to the marine environment, with which they interact. The controversies revolving around the quest for industrial development in the immediate vicinity of two of South Africa's major coastal wetland systems, illustrate the point. Both are described by Heydorn (1996).


A) South African East Coast (Kwazulu/Natal):
Mining for Heavy Minerals in the Dune Environment of St Lucia, in Relation to Nature Con-servation, Tourism and the Needs of the Local Population

St Lucia is the largest estuarine system in Africa (Begg, 1978) and without doubt the most important in Kwazulu/Natal, as it comprises approximately 80% of the total estuarine area of that province. The mouth of the system is situated 240 kilometres to the north of Durban. The system has an area of between 300 and 350 km2 depending on water levels, is about 65 km long, has a maximum width of 22 km and a depth of 1 - 2,5 m. The main portion of the lake system is connected with the sea via a 12 km long winding channel known as "The Narrows". Tidal exchange takes place through this channel. Evaporation is high in this region and water input from five rivers feeding the system is exceedingly important to prevent salinities from rising to levels lethal to aquatic organisms. The vulnerability of the system to high salinities has increased considerably since 1952 when the largest river, the Mfolozi, feeding the estuary from the south, was given a separate opening to the sea. This became necessary when the silt load of the river reached such high levels due to degradation of its catchment and floodplains, that the mouth of the entire St Lucia System became choked and blocked resulting in massive mortality of organisms in the system (Report, Dept. of Water Affairs, 1966). There have been several instances of mass mortalities in the foodweb of St Lucia as a result of high salinities, for example in 1969/70 when salinity of the northern lakes rose to three times that of seawater. Plankton, juvenile and adult marine fish, prawns, crocodiles and hippopotami were affected (Begg, 1978). The birdlife occurring at St Lucia is exceptionally diverse and of such international importance that this aquatic system has been given recognition as a Wetland of International Importance in terms of the Ramsar Convention (Cowan, 1995a).

St Lucia and its environment are managed by the Natal Parks Board as the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park and are graphically described by Taylor (1991). In terms of conservation and tourism, St Lucia represents one of the most important natural environments in southern Africa. Application has been made for World Heritage Site status.

Unique features of St Lucia are the swamp and sponge areas along the eastern shores of the lake system. These swamps are fed by seepage of fresh water from the dune cordon separating the lake from the sea and are of immense importance at times of drought and high salinities. When salinities in the main body of the lake rise excessively, the peripheral waters remain fresher as a result of seepage from these sponges. This enables aquatic organisms to survive even when salinity in the main body of water has risen excessively. If this seepage mechanism is disrupted, the ability of aquatic organisms to withstand the fluctuating salinities in the system will diminish with serious consequences not just for the St Lucia ecosystem, but also for marine life and bird populations (Wallace and Van der Elst, 1975). The vulnerability of the waters of St Lucia to salinization has been increased by plantations of pine and eucalyptus trees covering a large proportion of the lake's surrounding areas, which absorb much of the groundwater and hence seepage which previously reached the lake system.

Against this background it will be understood why there has been public opposition to attempts by the company, Richards Bay Minerals (RBM), an affiliate of Tisand (Pty) Ltd (major offshore share-holder: RTZ group), to exploit heavy minerals in the dunes to the east of Lake St Lucia. The mining method, which is being utilized further south on the coastal dunes of Kwazulu/Natal, entails the bulldozing of deep basins in the dunes, lining them with impervious dense material such as bentonite and filling them with water. The heavy minerals are extracted from the surrounding dune sand by cutter suction dredgers. Slurry is pumped to floating concentrator pumps, which separate the heavy minerals from the dune sand. Cowan (1995b) describes the St Lucia Lake System and the mining operation in greater detail, as does the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) commissioned by RBM and carried out by the CSIR (CSIR Environmental Service, 1993).

Richards Bay Minerals has an impressive record in the application of this mining technology and in revegetating dune sands subsequent to the mining. The latter entails reshaping the dunes and replanting with vegetation which resembles the original plant cover. Restoration of the original biological diversity is, of course, more difficult, but the method is appealing especially where pine or eucalyptus plantations are removed during mining and replaced with indigenous vegetation. This would be the case in some parts of the dunes to the east of St Lucia, where the mining is planned. Yet deep concerns remain for the following reasons:

    In spite of a considerable amount of geohydrological research in the dunes of St Lucia's eastern shores as reflected in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (CSIR, 1993) commissioned by Richards Bay Minerals, substantial doubt remains about the actual effects of disturbance of the dune stratification upon seepage mechanisms and hence fresh water replenishment of the lake system.

    There is concern about the ability of the already heavily exploited Mfolozi River to provide the immense amount of water (about 35 000 m3/day) required by the mining. Water is already extracted from the river for mining operations to the south. The implications for the ecology of the river downstream of the extraction points, or for the dynamics of the mouth, have not been quantified. There is uncertainty about the consequences of such changes for human communities dependent upon the river.

    There is uncertainty about the influence of the infrastructure required for the mining (roads, heavy vehicle traffic, powerlines, etc.) upon the town of St Lucia which is a regional tourist centre.

    It is known that test drillings have taken place in the entire dune cordon up to the Mozambique border. Richards Bay Minerals deny that they intend mining to the north of St Lucia, but there is great fear that this policy may change once the expensive infrastructure is in place and because this type of mining operation has the capability of slowly progressing along vast tracts of dunes.

    A pipeline through which the heavy mineral slurry is pumped to the railway system to the west of St Lucia would have to cross The Narrows, the only connection between the northern lakes of St Lucia and the sea. Substantial ecological risk may result, and this has not been quantified.

    There is great unhappiness about the inevitable visual impact of a massive mining operation upon the sense of place of this unique natural system. Its aesthetic and spiritual values to the tourist and person seeking St Lucia because of its wilderness qualities would be greatly diminished.

In the eyes of many, the needs and nature of mining are therefore incompatible with those of preservation of an aquatic system of inestimable importance. Threats to its biological diversity and aesthetic values are not acceptable, and St Lucia is regarded as an area which should be sacrosanct to incursions of heavy industry. This view was confirmed by the St Lucia Review Panel under the chairmanship of Judge R. N. Leon, which sat as part of the EIA procedure, and which advised on 10 December 1993 against mining at St Lucia.

In spite of this finding, the St Lucia mining bid remains a source of controversy. Jackson (1993) presents arguments in favour of mining and postulates, inter alia, that at this stage, only 1,400 ha are to be disturbed. It is striking that the whole debate did not take place against the background of long-term strategic land-use planning for the entire region between the Mfolozi River and the Mozambique Border. This would have provided the only means for weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of mining against those of other facets of economic activity - agriculture, forestry, local crafts industries and, of course, nature conservation/ tourism. It is a pity that part of the expenditure of more than R5 million for the EIA could not have been used for the compilation of such an all-embracing development plan.

After weighing up the arguments for and against mining very carefully, in February 1996 the South African Government decided against mining on the Eastern Shores of St Lucia.

B) South African West Coast:
Development of a Steel Mill and Associated Industries at Saldanha Bay, in the Proximity of Langebaan Lagoon and the West Coast National Park

In 1993 it became known that ISCOR, in collaboration with the South African Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), had applied for rezoning of land from agricultural to industrial use in the immediate vicinity of Saldanha Bay, for purposes of the erection of a steel mill and establishment of associated industries. The Saldanha Steel Project (SSP) would essentially process South African-produced iron ore from Sishen as well as imported pelletized ore. The associated industries would include a galvanizing plant, a cement factory, stainless steel and pipe production facilities and a range of engineering support services.

It is striking that, as at St Lucia, this heavy industrial development project has also been planned in the immediate vicinity of a major coastal aquatic system of international importance. The town Saldanha is situated a little more than 100 km north of Cape Town. The water body of the Saldanha/Langebaan Lagoon System is approximately 24 km long, depending on the state of the tide. The overall water area comprises 13,100 ha, of which 5,600 ha fall in the southern portion under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Board (Langebaan Lagoon), and 7,500 ha in the northern portion (Saldanha Bay) which is controlled by PORTNET. The harbour and iron ore exporting quay are situated in this northern portion. The West Coast National Park incorporates the whole Langebaan Lagoon and is registered under the international conventions Ramsar (for wetlands) and Bonn (for migratory birds). South Africa is a signatory to both these conventions. The bird-nesting islands, Jutten, Malgas and Marcus situated in the northern Saldanha Bay portion, form part of the Ramsar site (Cowan, 1995a) and are managed by the National Parks Board.

In contrast to St Lucia, no rivers flow directly into the Saldanha/Langebaan Lagoon aquatic system. The salinity equilibrium is maintained by exceptionally strong tidal exchange on the one hand, and seepage of freshwater from peripheral swamps on the other. The swamps in turn are dependent on groundwater seepage for survival. Substantial volumes of groundwater occur in aquifers underlying this region between Saldanha/Langebaan and the lower reaches of the Berg River situated some 20 km to the north.

The swamps and adjacent tidal mudflats support a rich network of living organisms. Many of these organisms are preyed upon by wading birds when the mudflats are exposed at low tide and by marine fish when they are covered with water at high tide.

In 1993 the SSP commissioned the CSIR to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the results of which were made public in 1994 (CSIR Environmental Services, 1994). The brief was project-specific and restricted to only the first phase of development of the proposed steel mill. It did not touch upon the potential impact of the overall industrial development envisaged. Public reaction to the EIA was wide-ranging. On the one hand, there was powerful pressure for the development, especially because there is much poverty amongst the people of Saldanha Bay, as a result of progressively declining yields by the marine commercial fisheries of the region. On the other, there was strong opposition for the following reasons:

    Conflict with the economically important tourism industry revolving around the West Coast National Park, Club Mykonos and Saldanha Bay, and as a destination for the international yachting fraternity. This tourist potential has by no means been exploited to the full, especially not by the town Saldanha itself.

    Conflict with the mariculture industry, which is strongly developed in Saldanha Bay. The culture of mussels and oysters from floating rafts currently employs some 1,500 people and the industry at Saldanha is expanding. This is important at a time when yields of marine commercial fisheries are declining.

    Fears that South Africa's international image will suffer if obligations in terms of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the Bonn Convention on migratory birds are not honoured.

    Deep concern about the ability of the already heavily utilized Berg River to also provide the substantial amounts of water for this new industrial development node and the inevitable accompanying residential expansion. Groundwater replenishment along the lower reaches of the river is already a cause of great concern to farmers, as borehole water upon which farming is highly dependent is becoming increasingly brackish. If excessive water abstraction and storage in dams changes flow and flood patterns, there is also the danger that the river mouth will be blocked by marine sediments. The mouth is the only route which fishing trawlers can use to offload their catches at the canning factories of Laaiplek and Velddrif. The concern of the agricultural and fishing industries must therefore be taken seriously.

The controversy over this issue became so powerful that the Minister of Environment Affairs and Tourism appointed a Board of Investigation under the Chairmanship of retired Judge J. Steyn. The Board heard a wide range of evidence and recommended that the steel project should continue but at a site some 10 km further inland and subject to stringent measures aimed at reducing water requirements and ecological as well as aesthetic impacts (Report, Steyn et al., 1995). In making its recommendations, the Board emphasized two principles: First, the right of industrialists to locate their operations on sites suitable for optimizing economic benefits. Secondly, the need for industry to live in harmony with the environment and other economically important activities dependent upon the environment. In the Saldanha region mariculture, pelagic fisheries and the tourist industry are particularly relevant. The need for strategic regional economic planning, taking into account the specific features and characteristics of the region, both terrestrial and marine, becomes evident.

Against the overall background sketched above, deep-going discussions took place between the Government, the steel industry, numerous organizations, including Ramsar, WWF-SA and the National Parks Board, as well as private individuals. These led to a compromise solution and the government gave approval for the steel mill to go ahead, subject to stringent conditions. This decision will be discussed in more detail below.

The role of the Ramsar Bureau at St Lucia and Saldanha/Langebaan

A) St Lucia.

Notification in terms of Article 3.2 of the Ramsar Convention was given by South Africa in the 1989 National Report to the Bureau, that the ecological character of the St Lucia System was likely to change as a result of human interference revolving around the mining bid. Consequently, at the 4th Meeting of the Contracting Parties held in Montreux, grave concern was expressed about the potential impact of the mining and the South African Government was called upon to:

  • prohibit any mining activity which will damage the ecological character of the site; and
  • ensure that the St Lucia System is retained as a protected site because of its national and international conservation importance.

The site, along with 43 others, was entered onto the Montreux Record and thus became subject to the [Management Guidance Procedure] according to Recommendation 4.7 (Cowan, 1995b). In 1991, the South African Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism invited the Bureau to send a monitoring mission to investigate the St Lucia situation. Consequently a three-person monitoring team, consisting of Mr M. Smart of the Ramsar Bureau, Dr S. Njuguna (wetland ecologist), and Dr V. Semeniuk (specialist dune ecologist) carried out an intensive investigation in April/May 1991. Their report was finally submitted and accepted during 1992 (Cowan, 1995b). At the 5th Meeting of the Conference of Contracting Parties held in Kushiro, deep concern at the potential impact of mining on the St Lucia System was re-confirmed and the Ramsar Convention called on the Government of South Africa to give serious consideration to the recommendations in the [Management Guidance Procedure] Report No. 28, i.e. that the mining should not be allowed. It is difficult to refute, therefore, in spite of the vehement denial of risk by Richards Bay Minerals, that the massive nature of the proposed mining operation, the danger of disruption of geohydrological dune seepage processes feeding the lake, coupled to excessive water demands and the inevitable impact of this heavy industrial activity upon the aesthetic values of this lake system, this mining operation is not compatible with maintenance of the integrity of St Lucia as a wetland of international importance. This is the fundamental reason for the recommendation also of the EIA Review Panel that mining should not be allowed, and for the public statement of WWF-SA opposing the mining operation. Ramsar contributed meaningfully to these conclusions, and to the final decision by the South African Government, that mining should not go ahead at St Lucia. Because of this negative decision, the South African Government has now requested that St Lucia be taken off the Montreux Record.

B) Saldanha/Langebaan.

The situation at Saldanha/Langebaan is not as clear-cut as at St Lucia. As has been indicated above, the greatest concerns are about the availability of freshwater for the proposed steel mill and the associated industries and the dangers of groundwater and air pollution. If guarantees can be given that these problems can be overcome through technical modifications, and if the overall industrial development node can be shifted inland from the edge of the aquatic system, arguments in opposition to this development are considerably weakened. This is especially so if the industrial activity is seen to augment, rather than be of detriment to, existing economic activity in the region. It is therefore imperative that the validity of such guarantees is adequately tested, and it is in this context that the Government of the Western Cape and Saldanha Steel, who were trying to achieve the best compromise, sought the counsel of WWF-South Africa.

The view of WWF-SA was that, because of the international importance of the Saldanha/Langebaan System and its status as a registered site under the Ramsar Convention, no decision should be taken without direct consultation with the international Ramsar Bureau. This view was accepted. Consequently the Ramsar Bureau was invited to send a delegation to South Africa and Messrs M. Smart and T. Kabii made themselves available at very short notice for consultation.

Upon their arrival in South Africa on 4 November 1995, they were provided with all relevant background documentation, including the comprehensive report compiled by the Steyn Board of Investigation.

On 6 November they undertook a field trip to the entire Langebaan, Saldanha, Berg River region, using a helicopter. They were accompanied by Dr A. Heydorn of WWF-SA and Mr S. Yssel of the National Parks Board, who know the region intimately and provided relevant topographical, climatological, geological, palaeontological and botanical background information. Special attention was paid to the geological history of the region leading to the present configuration of two major wetland systems - those of the Lower Berg River and of Saldanha/Langebaan, which appear to be linked by a system of underground water aquifers. The origin of these aquifer systems requires more elucidation, but there is strong evidence that this can be traced to a former exit into the sea of the Berg River via the present position of Langebaan Lagoon. The marshes of the southern portion of Langebaan Lagoon were visited on foot. Here the inflow of low-salinity seepage water, resulting in the dominance of freshwater marsh vegetation, was witnessed. It was confirmed that the present-day relationship between the lower Berg River, the Saldanha/Langebaan System and the aquifers is in urgent need of further study, as disruption of the seepage water-inflow mechanisms into Langebaan Lagoon could destroy the ecological integrity of the entire system.

In the days that followed, the Ramsar Bureau representatives were involved in intensive discussions with the provincial Ministers of Agriculture, Planning, Tourism, Finance and Nature Conservation. Saldanha Steel, the National Parks Board, WWF-SA, private landscape and architectural consultants and the National Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism participated in these discussions. They led to development of a compromise entailing the shifting of the proposed steel mill two kilometres inland, creation of a four kilometre buffer strip between the mill and the waters of the bay, minimization of freshwater requirements through the use of air or seawater cooling, and imposition of strict environmental controls. Furthermore, all associated industries are to be developed inland of the site of the steel mill, and the Western Cape Government undertook that a Strategic Economic Development Plan for the entire region would be commissioned without delay.

These stringent conditions formed the basis of approval by the Cabinet of the Western Cape that the Saldanha Steel Project can go ahead.


In fairness to Richards Bay Minerals, the question must be asked why the Ramsar Bureau was prepared to consider a compromise solution at Saldanha, but not at St Lucia. The answer can be related to three major considerations. First, at Saldanha alternative cooling methods can lead to substantial reductions in freshwater requirements. This is not possible at St Lucia, where the mining ponds must be filled. Secondly, at Saldanha it was possible to shift the location of the steel mill and associated industries away from the bay and to avoid substantial interference with groundwater flows, which would be virtually impossible at St Lucia. Thirdly, the proposed mining at St Lucia would fall within a designated Ramsar site. This is not the case at Saldanha. Nevertheless, it is essential that Saldanha/Langebaan be placed on the Montreux Record to ensure that in future Ramsar Management Guidance Procedures are applied to this system, which will inevitably be subjected to considerable stress by heavy industrial development in its immediate vicinity. As a matter of fact, both Ramsar and WWF carry heavy responsibility to ensure that the conditions under which the go-ahead for the steel mill and associated industries was given are strictly adhered to, because, in the event of the environment suffering damage, Ramsar and WWF will be regarded as part of the decision making process which led to that damage. As far as the steel and associated industries are concerned, failure to adhere to the conditions under which the compromise was reached would not only damage their own integrity, but also South Africa's reputation as a signatory of international conventions. It is therefore of vital importance that the development of this industrial endeavour demonstrates that it is carried out in a highly responsible manner and that it is not to the detriment of other economic activities dependent upon an intact environment and of the inherent ecological and aesthetic values of the region. The whole project remains in the focus of national and international scrutiny.

Throughout the discussions about St Lucia and Saldanha/Langebaan in which the Ramsar Bureau and WWF-SA were involved, the emphasis has been on the protection of coastal processes and water resources without which the ecological integrity of these two major wetland systems cannot be maintained. These considerations are also of great importance to communities dependent upon the limited amount of water, wetlands, and related terrestrial and marine resources for their well-being and livelihood. Equally important are economic considerations, for these are of national and international relevance.

Of particular relevance in the international context to the Saldanha situation is the controversy over the management of the Doñana National Park in southern Spain, which is also a Ramsar site. Here the use of underground water supplies for tourism and agriculture caused a serious drop in the water of an aquifer underlying both the park and surrounding area and eventually led to desiccation of the park itself. Furthermore, in a situation similar to that at St Lucia and Saldanha, Ramsar Contracting Parties made important recommendations, relevant to management of the Lower Danube Basin, at the meeting held in Kushiro, Japan, in June 1993.

This underlines the need for "wise use and the need for national wetland policies" (see Nakuru Proceedings, 1994, pp. 101-3). Ramsar defines the wise use of wetlands as "their sustainable utilization for the benefit of humankind in a way compatible with the maintenance of the natural properties of the ecosystem. Sustainable utilization is defined as "human use of a wetland so that it may yield the greatest continuous benefit to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations."

This approach is directly relevant to both case studies at St Lucia and Saldanha, and it will be equally relevant to the handling of future controversies, which will inevitably arise. Both St Lucia and Saldanha illustrate the importance of integrating the "wise use principle" into the wider concept of "Integrated Coastal Zone Management" because if the coastal aquatic systems suffer damage, this will impact negatively also upon the adjacent marine environments and their exploitable resources. In any coastal environment a holistic approach must therefore be followed in which strategic regional economic land-use planning incorporates the principles of wise use of wetlands and integrated coastal zone management. In this regard it is important to note that a Wetlands Conservation Bill, incorporating the above principles, is currently serving before the South African Parliament.

It should also be noted that, at a workshop and policy conference on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in East Africa (including the Island States) held in Tanzania in 1993, the need for countries to develop a coordinated approach to legislation which governs activities in and outside coastal zones, and with the potential of impacting negatively on coastal and marine wetlands, was identified. The St Lucia and Saldanha case studies underline the wisdom of this recommendation. At both, coordinated legislation and strategic land-use planning were inadequate, and unless these shortcomings are rectified, project-specific EIAs cannot be evaluated properly and delays in economic development and unsatisfactory decisions may be difficult to avoid. The inference as far as the management and protection of wetlands is concerned is clear, as is the magnitude of international implications, and the Ramsar Convention at its meeting held in Brisbane in March 1996 gave serious attention to this matter. This led to unanimous acceptance of the following recommendation: [the text of Recommendation 6.8]

Concluding Comment

It was impressive witnessing at Brisbane the concern and collaborative work over 10 days of over a thousand people belonging to 91 Contracting Parties to Ramsar, 32 observer states, 12 government organizations, 94 non-governmental organizations and many individuals, in the interests of protection of the world's wetlands and their supporting systems, both terrestrial and marine. The fact that a Strategic Plan for the next five years, 25 resolutions, and 18 recommendations were accepted bears testimony to the intensity of this work. The challenge now is to implement the Plan, the resolutions, and the recommendations throughout the world so that positive feedback can be given at the next convention in three years time.

My sincere thanks go to the Ramsar Bureau for inviting me to present a keynote paper, for the superb organization of the conference and to WWF-SA for providing financial support.


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