Workshop on wetlands and the Ramsar Convention in West Asia


The ‘Workshop on Wetlands and the Ramsar Convention in West Asia’ was held in the Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates from 23 to 26 May 2011 with the aim of sharing case studies and best practices in order to identify ways to improve the conservation of wetlands and implementation of the Ramsar Conservation in West Asia.

Ed. Note Update: All papers and photos presented at the workshop are now available as a 120MB ZIP File. Download times will vary.

Workshop participants at Ras Al Khor

The workshop was hosted by the Environment Protection & Development Department, Fujairah Municipality in collaboration with the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, the Ramsar Regional Centre – Central and West Asia, and the Emirates Wildlife Society in association with WWF (EWS-WWF). It was attended by 50 participants from 11 countries, and included representatives from governments, UN agencies, conservation and research organizations, educational institutions and other stakeholder from West Asia and North Africa involved with the conservation and wise use of wetlands.

The workshop was under the patronage of the Crown Prince of Fujairah, HH Sheikh Mohamed Bin Hamad Al Sharqi who attended the opening ceremony. Welcoming speeches were given by the Minister for Environment and Water HE Dr. Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahad, Fujairah Municipality Manager En. Mohammad Saif Al Afkham, and the League of Arab States Ms. Nermin Wafa.

HH Sheikh Mohamed Bin Hamad Al Sharqi (right) and HE Dr. Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahad (left)

A common theme that came out in the workshop presentations and discussions was the need to raise greater awareness of the value of wetlands at all levels of the community. On the formal education level, participants heard about the innovative programme being conducted by the Higher College of Technology in Fujairah to integrate environmental issues into the school curricula, and the special study visit programmes being carried out for students to the Ramsar Sites at Wadi Wurayah in Fujairah.

Workshop in session

At the government level, participants were informed of a new study that has begun to assess the economic value of Arab wetlands where the results will be used to raise the awareness of senior decision makers about the importance of wetlands so that proper consideration can be given to them in the planning process.

There was also discussion and agreement about the need for a regional training programme to build the capacity of those who have a direct responsibility for wetland conservation and management, e.g. government officials and wetland site managers. Such a programme would be built upon available wetland training material and be organized at the existing training centres in the region. A small group of participants is now continuing to develop this proposal.

A second important theme that came through the workshop was the need to engage with other stakeholders and organizations that also play a role in wetland conservation. At the site level, this would be to involve the local community in the decision-making process for the management and conservation of the site. An example of this was at the Sabkhat al-Jabbul Ramsar Site, Syria where the participatory approach was used to develop the site management plan.

At the government level, the workshop discussed the value of establishing National Wetland Committees as a means of engaging and coordinating with other government departments, organizations, NGOs and experts who also play a role in the management of wetlands and water. In this discussion, the participants from Algeria were able to give their experience of how such a broad-based committee had benefited the wetlands and people in their country.

However, the wetlands in West Asia still face a number of problems, one of which is the lack of recent information of the status of the region’s wetlands. As a result, participants agreed to work towards producing an updated wetland database for West Asia, incorporating data held by various organizations which can be used for site management and for the protection of new sites.

Another issue was that many existing Ramsar Sites in the region still had either not finalized their Ramsar Information Sheets (RIS) yet or else, the RIS was in need of updating. These RIS are important in providing the basic information about the site and the NGOs present at the workshop expressed their willingness to assist the governments with the work of finalizing and updating these RIS.

Workshop participants at a spring in Wadi Wurayeh

The workshop also included field visits to the Ramsar Sites at Wadi Wurayah and Ras Al Khor to learn at first-hand about the different management needs of the two sites. The outcomes from the workshop are attached in English and in Arabic.

Wadi Wurayah Ramsar Site

Report by Lew Young, Senior Regional Advisor for Asia/Oceania

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