News on culture and wetlands


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New Ramsar Culture Network Website

The new Ramsar Culture Network's website provides a platform for information and exchange among the Network's members and all other interested parties. It is available at

The RCN is looking forward to receiving your comments and submissions of articles to include in the website at [27/11/13]

Recent meetings broaden cooperation on wetland values

Salinas de Añana (image courtesy of Fundación Valle Salado de Añana)

The Ramsar Culture Network has been helping to strengthen cooperation between the Convention and UNESCO, involving not only the latter’s World Heritage Centre, but also the Man & Biosphere Programme, the Intangible Cultural Heritage Section and (in this International Year of Water Cooperation) the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) .

Presentations given at two recent meetings by Ramsar Culture Network Joint Coordinator Dave Pritchard have explored the relationships between ecological and cultural values of wetlands, and approaches to this which (in a context of ecosystem services) provide a basis for more successfully integrating approaches to management. More [06/07/13]

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, Yunnan (China) inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List

China’s 45th site in the UNESCO World Heritage List, the cultural landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, was inscribed this week.

For the past 1300 years, the Hani people, an ethnic group and one of the 56 nationalities officially recognised by the People’s Republic of China, have transformed the slopes of the Ailao Mountains by building terraces that cascade down to the banks of the Hong River. By means of a complex system of channels, they bring water from the mountaintops to these terraces. The Hani have also developed a farming system that integrates buffaloes, cattle, ducks, fish and eels with the production of red rice, the primary crop of the area.

This extraordinary landscape, based on distinctive land and water management techniques, depicts a unique harmony between people and their environment, and is based on solid social and religious frameworks. Its international recognition as a “cultural landscape” exemplifies the key role of the World Heritage Convention (with which Ramsar cooperates closely) in addressing human culture and wetland ecology together. [27/06/13]

Launch of the Ramsar Culture Network

For the past few years, incorporation of culture in the activities of the Ramsar Convention has been promoted by the Convention’s Culture Working Group (CWG). In the framework of Resolutions VIII.19 and IX.21, and with funding support from the MAVA Foundation for Nature, the CWG has been coordinated by Thymio Papayannis and Dave Pritchard and guided by Ramsar's Secretary General, Anada Tiéga.

Earlier in 2013, the Standing Committee reviewed the results of the CWG activities and found them satisfactory, encouraging it to go forward. Thus, it was agreed that the CWG would be developed into a broader Ramsar Culture Network (RCN), with the same coordination and with voluntary membership from Contracting Parties, committed organisations and individual experts. Through this Network, activities to promote and strengthen the integrated management of the natural and cultural heritage of wetlands would be expanded, ensuring wider participation and greater impact.

The RCN was launched on 10 June. It is a good omen that among its first members are Delmar Blasco and Peter Bridgewater, former Secretaries General of the Ramsar Convention, with enthusiastic responses received in a few days from individuals in France, Greece, Israel, Japan, Morocco, Spain, Thailand, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The RCN is working in close cooperation with UNESCO, and especially with its World Heritage Centre.

Further information on the Ramsar Culture Network will be provided through this website. [19/06/13]

Wetlands and Culture: a call for participation in the new Ramsar Culture Network

With the endorsement of the Standing Committee of the Convention on Wetlands, the Ramsar Culture Working Group is being broadened to include a greater number of active partners concerned about the integrated management of the natural and cultural values of wetlands. Thus, a new Ramsar Culture Network (RCN) is being established, in close cooperation with UNESCO. The members of the Network will be Contracting Parties, organisations and individual experts concerned about culture and wetlands. You may read the call here.

If you are interested, please write to RCN Secretariat (ilyratzaki[at] [17/06/13]

Coordinators of the Ramsar Culture Network (RCN) convened to discuss RCN and UNESCO cooperation

Report and photo by Irini Lyratzaki, Scientific Secretariat, Med-INA (Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos)

On Monday 13 May 2013, Thymio Papayannis and David Pritchard, the coordinators of the Ramsar Culture Network (RCN) had a meeting at the UNESCO offices in Paris to discuss several aspects of their cooperation. Tobias Salathé, Senior Regional Advisor for Europe was representing the Ramsar Secretariat during this meeting, which reviewed progress with specific areas of cooperation that had been previously agreed, including the ‘Indicative Work Plan for Mutual Cooperation’ drawn up in July 2011. Elements of the future process for monitoring, reporting and updating of such action lists were agreed. More [30/05/13]

Draft Strategic Action Plan on culture and wetlands 2012-2016: Request for comments

On behalf of the Culture Working Group, a draft Strategic Action Plan for work on culture in the Ramsar context has been prepared for the period to 2016. This sets out a vision and some specifics of a revitalised programme of initiatives, partnership collaborations and strengthened coordination following COP11. The Plan needs to be informed by input from all those with an interest in this subject, and accordingly comments are now invited on this first draft. The document can be downloaded here [pdf, 0.5 MB], and further information on the consultation process is given in an explanatory note on the cover page. [06/06/12]

New publication: Wetlands and culture in Japan

A new publication from Wetlands International, Japan, brings together some key findings on wetlands and culture. Through an extensive survey of cultural activities in Japanese wetlands, case studies are organised under three headings, ‘Cultures of Conservation and Restoration’, ‘Cultures of Wise Use’ and ‘Cultures of Communication, Education, Participation (CEPA)’. This 72-page, full-colour publication provides a brief introduction to their definition of wetland culture and explains the rationale of the three groups, and then presents 33 selected cases studies. Each case study is a two-page spread of useful information and photos representing the amazing diversity of wetland culture in Japan.

33 Examples of the Cultures and Technologies of Wetlands in Japan: Relationships with Local People and Communities has been edited by Tasuichi Tsujii (President of Wetlands International Japan and a Ramsar Award winner for this triennium) and Koichi Sasagawa (Professor, Hosei University). It is available in electronic format for download here in English. [08/05/12]

New Book: Culture and wetlands in the Mediterranean: an evolving story

This book is the result of a four-year research project (2007-2011) about the implementation in the Mediterranean Region of the Ramsar Guidance on Culture and Wetlands. It was carried out by Med-INA, the Mediterranean Institute on Nature and Anthropos, with the financial support of the MAVA Foundation.

This multi-author book follows a structure that echoes the Ramsar Guidance and investigates the benefits that can result from following its objectives, analysing various sectors of human activities and more than 20 wetland sites. In addition, it identifies areas in which the guidance provided needs to be strengthened or others that are not yet covered. Most of the 32 authors are wetland experts from many disciplines who have been sensitised to the integrated approach to heritage, both natural and cultural, and have been willing to introduce this new concept of culture in their wetland work. Each chapter and section of the book is introduced by the two editors, Thymio Papayannis, director of Med-INA and coordinator of the Ramsar Culture Working Group and Dave Pritchard, recipient of the Ramsar Award in 2008.

Papayannis, T. and Pritchard, D. (eds) 2011, Culture and Wetlands in the Mediterranean: an Evolving Story, Athens: Med-INA (hard cover and soft cover, 438 pages).

Available gratis from: or fax: +30 210 3629338, providing full postal address (upon postage payment).

Link to Book, in PDF format (7MB)

Sambhar Master Plan

Sambhar (pop. 22,000) is located in Rajasthan 65km from Jaipur, and is a town of great cultural significance. It also lies directly on the banks of Sambhar Lake, the largest salt lake in India and designated Ramsar Site due to its significance as a bird habitat and unique ecological characteristics. The master plan used the Ramsar Guidance Document on Culture and Wetlands as a basis for creating policy and a management plan that valued both the ecological and cultural characteristics of Sambhar Lake and the town of Sambhar. More. [21/09/2011]

Culture in Asian wetland meeting

15/03/2011. We have been informed by Professor Sansanee Choowaew, member of the Ramsar CWG, that the Asian Wetland Symposium (AWS) will be held in Kota Kinabalu (Sabah, Malaysia) on 18-20 July 2011, with the theme ‘Integrated biodiversity conservation: Linking forests and wetlands’.

The major aim of the Symposium is to identify practical strategies and mechanisms for enabling integrated biodiversity conservation with a focus on linking forests and wetlands. In this broad context, one of its technical sessions will be devoted to ’Cultural heritage of forests and wetlands’. The session, organised by the Sabah Parks and their Deputy Director Dr. Jamili Nais, will include Conservation of biocultural values, TEK documentation (community protocol), Satoyama and Satoumi, ICCAs, local forms of wise-use / livelihood activities, protected areas and communities, and other related issues.

For more information, please contact the Symposium Secretariat in Sabah at 

Cultural aspects to assist major wetland restoration in the Mediterranean

05/01/2011. The potential use of cultural values in strengthening wetland restoration efforts will be tested through a new three-year project launched in the Mediterranean in early 2011. The aim of the project is to select three major wetland sites that have been greatly degraded and examine whether their cultural aspects can be enhanced and used to catalyse conservation initiatives.

Three potential sites have been seriously considered. In Greece, Carla Lake –once a great Mediterranean wetland– was drained in the 1960s to create cultivation land, while currently parts of it are being re-flooded. In Cyprus, Larnaca Lagoon, a Ramsar site, has been dissected by the runways of the local airport. The existence there of an important Moslem sacred site (Umm Haram Tekke) might be combined with a properly restored wetland core to attract visitors. In Tunisia, the Bay of Tunis has lost many of its values through degradation and drainage. Still an ancient fort in the Bay could be turned into a visitor centre, combined with the restoration of the surrounding wetland areas.

All three are difficult efforts, but Med-INA, which is running the project with the support of the MAVA Foundation, believes that progress can be made through persistent and joint efforts with local societies and authorities.  

Ramsar Guidance on Culture and Wetlands published in Japanese

10/12/2010. As announced earlier in 2010, Wetlands International Japan considered that the Guidance on Culture and Wetlands, issued in 2008 by the Ramsar Culture Working Group, would be useful for the management and wise use of wetlands in that country. Thus, the Guidance was translated by Mina Yoshikai, Koichi Sasagawa and Miki Sasaki, under the supervision of Takeshi Kobayashi and Tatsuichi Tsujii and published in late 2010. (ISBN 978-4-9904238-4-1.)

It is hoped that this publication will encourage decision-makers and wetland managers to incorporate the rich cultural values of Japanese wetlands in conservation efforts, obtaining synergy from the joint management of cultural and natural heritage. Read more

Book in French on Mediterranean wetland heritage

. In 2009, the book Action for culture in Mediterranean wetlands was updated and translated into French. It was published in early 2010 in Paris by Buchet/Chastel in its Ecologie series, with the title Un patrimoine à préserver – les zones humides méditerranéennes.

The book – authored by Thymio Papayannis with the assistance of many experts from the region– is based on a critical analysis of 21 wetland sites, placing it in a broader context. It encourages an integrated approach to the natural and cultural heritage of wetlands.

Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps

. According to information provided by Professor Albert Hafner, a proposal has been submitted for the recognition of pile dwellings around the Alps as World Heritage Sites.

Prehistoric pile dwellings and bog settlements are a phenomenon peculiar to the Alpine countries. They have been found in an excellent state of preservation in numerous lakes and wetlands throughout the foothills of the Alps. Some 1000 such dwellings are known in the area, spread across Switzerland, southern Germany, Austria, Slovenia, northern Italy and eastern France.

As monuments, they are of unique importance and scientific significance. They are threatened, however, by erosion, large scale land filling, dredging and construction. The ‘UNESCO World Heritage’ designation can contribute to the comprehensive protection of these unique sites and reinforce the awareness of their global values.

It should be noted that in the application to UNESCO the position of the Ramsar Convention on the archaeological heritage of wetlands is used as an argument. More

[see:; contact:

The Ramsar guidance on Culture and Wetlands in Japanese

In late 2008, during the Ramsar COP10, Wetlands International – Japan organised a very successful side event on the cultural values of Asian wetlands and published later its presentations.

This year, Wetlands International – Japan has translated the ‘Ramsar Guidance on Culture and Wetlands’ into Japanese and will publish it in the next few months.


Workshop on an integrated approach to nature and culture

On the Greek side of Prespa Lakes – a Ramsar site – a Mediterranean Workshop was held on 23-27 September 2009, on the theme ‘Towards an integrated approach to the cultural and natural values of wetlands’.

The Workshop was organised by Med-INA (Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos) in collaboration with the MedWet Initiative and the Society for the Protection of Prespa. It was held in the framework of a Med-INA project on ‘Cultural aspects of Mediterranean wetlands’ supported by the MAVA Foundation.

The meeting opened with a message by Anada Tiéga, the Ramsar Secretary General, and a greeting by Lazaros Nalpantidis, the Mayor of Prespa. 35 experts from 17 countries took part and contributed their experience and views on the integration of natural and cultural aspects of wetlands and the incorporation of cultural values in their management (view the agenda). The ‘Ramsar guidance document on culture and wetlands’ was presented by Dave Pritchard, member of the Ramsar Culture Working Group.

In addition, the meeting gave the opportunity to the Nejib Benessaiah, Interim MedWet Co-ordinator, to present the concept of the new MedWet Culture Network and to discuss with the other participants the modalities of its establishment and future activities; while the Society for the Protection of Prespa explained the purpose and activities of its innovative ‘Centre for Man and Nature’, recently established in the village of Lemos.

-- Thymio Papayannis

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