The Ramsar Bulletin Board, 2 December 2004

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Secretary General pays visits to Lao PDR, Australia. In the course of his late November travels, which have included the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Thailand and a visit to a Ramsar/Evian project in Cambodia, the Secretary General, Peter Bridgewater, has also been able to stop in to discuss accession progress in the Lao People's Democratic Republic and to discuss scenarios of the Convention's future development with the members of Australia's Wetlands and Waterbirds Taskforce. Here are very brief illustrated reports on both of those events: Lao PDR, Australia. [02/12/04]


Samoa joins the Ramsar Convention. The Secretariat is extremely pleased to announce that UNESCO, the treaty depositary, has received the instrument of accession from Samoa, and the Convention, as amended by the Paris Protocol (1982) and the Regina Amendments (1987), will enter into force for Samoa, as our 142nd Contracting Party, on 6 February 2005. The first Wetland of International Importance designated by Samoa is the "Lake Lanoto'o", the largest freshwater lake in the country amongst few remaining still in pristine natural form. It is located in the central highlands of the Island of Upolu and forms the core part of the watershed area for the township of Apia, the capital of Samoa. The site apparently comprises two other small lakes as well, rainforests of native hardwood tree species and secondary forests of shrubs and other vegetation, but Ramsar datasheets on the site have not yet been received, and more information will follow later. Ramsar's Assistant Advisor for Asia-Pacific, Ms Liazzat Rabbiosi, notes that the Secretariat would particularly like to acknowledge the support offered by Bill Phillips (Mainstream) and the WWF Global Freshwater Programme, whose assistance has been extremely helpful in moving the accession process forward. Mr Vainuupo Jungblut, the Ramsar Officer in the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) in Apia, adds: "A big Congratulations to Faumuina Pati LIU and his staff at the Samoa Division of Environment & Conservation of the Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment for their hard work and effort." Samoa joins Papua New Guinea, Palau, and (newly) the Marshall Islands (with Australia and New Zealand) in carrying the objectives of the Ramsar Convention forward in the Pacific Islands region. [01/12/04]


Tunisia plans 15 new Ramsar sites. Denis Landenbergue (WWF) reports that "the Tunisian Government has just officially announced its commitment to designate at least 15 new Ramsar Sites, covering a total area of over 750,000 hectares. The announcement was made as a result of a project supported by WWF's Global Freshwater Programme, and implemented in the framework of a close cooperation between WWF's Mediterreanean Programme Office and Tunis Project Office, the Direction Générale des Forêts of Tunisia, the Institut National Agronomique of University of Tunis, and non-governmental organisations including the Association des Amis des Oiseaux (AAO) - Birdlife National Partner in Tunisia. Mr. Mike Smart, former Ramsar Deputy Secretary General and a recognized specialist of Tunisia's wetlands, has also been providing valuable expertise and support to this commendable initiative of the Government of Tunisia. The official announcement was made by Mr. Amol El Abed, Tunisia's Secretary of State for Water Resources and Fisheries (Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources) as part of his Opening Speech for the eleventh Pan-African Ornithological Congress (PAOC XI) currently taking place in Djerba, Tunisia (21th-25th November 2004)."  [30/11/04]


Conference on transboundary Ramsar sites. Many Wetlands of International Importance are located in border zones of adjoining countries. Despite their obvious transboundary connectivity, these shared wetlands are often not perceived and treated as ecological and hydrological units. This poses major challenges to wetland conservation, not only in terms of habitat management, regional planning and decision making. In order to explore these issues, an international conference was held in mid-November 2004 in Illmitz, Austria, in the Austrian-Hungarian transboundary park and Ramsar site Neusiedl/Fertö, where some 50 participants from all over Europe gathered to bring further clarity to the emerging issue of transboundary Ramsar management - an ideal preparation for the workshop on "shared catchments and wetlands - increasing transboundary cooperation" to be held as part of the European Ramsar Meeting in Yerevan, Armenia, on 5 December 2004. Ramsar's Tobias Salathé reports on the conference and includes the official meeting summary and a number of interesting photographs of the venue and participants, right here. [27/11/04]


Austria names peatland areas in Styria. The Ramsar Secretariat is delighted to announce that Austria, just a few months after having designated a number of valuable mires in the Salzburg region, has named, as of 15 October 2004, a small collection of bogs, mires and fens in the Steiermark region in the southeast. The Moore am Nassköhr site (211 hectares, 47°43'N 15°33'E), already a Nature Reserve, comprises a number of mires that are all near-natural except for one bog, the Torfstichmoor, which had been used as a peat cut in the 19th century; the others, however, have been more or less affected by cattle grazing and trampling. In a joint project with the landowners, the Austrian Federal Forests (ÖBf-AG), the Institute of Ecology and Conservation Biology of Vienna University (IECB), and WWF-Austria initiated a management plan financed by the ÖBf-AG in order to improve the conditions for the peatlands. This is an outstanding example of private nature conservation activities in Austria. In spring 2002 the ÖBf-AG built dams into all drainage channels and in autumn - after long-lasting negotiations with the farmers - they began building a fence to keep the cattle out from most of the mires. A brief description of the site, with some photos of both the site and the presentation of Ramsar site certificates by the Austrian Ramsar National Committee, can be seen here. [26/11/04]


Montpellier workshop on francophone African wetlands. On behalf of the French Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development, ATEN (the Atelier Technique des Espaces Naturelles) is organizing a "Journées de rencontres" workshop on wetland management for Montpellier, France, 29 November to 4 December 2004. Partners in developing the meeting are the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, Wetlands International, the Office national de la chasse et de la faune sauvage, La Station Biologique du Tour du Valat, and the Centre de Recherche des etudes Agronomiques des Régions Chaudes, and the subject will be "Préparation des dispositifs de formation des gestionnaires de zones humides de 5 pays d'Afrique francophone". Representatives of five African French-speaking countries, Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Madagascar, will participate in the sessions, which are intended to strengthen institutional cooperation among actors; update the diagnosis of needs and resources; establish a work plan for the construction of training mechanisms; and define a strategy of financing of conservation actions. The Ramsar Senior Advisor, Abou Bamba, will make a presentation on Ramsar recommendations and Strategic Plan 2003-2008 related to training and capacity building, and his assistant, Ahmed El-Sabban, will present the Ramsar Handbooks series. More information at http://www.zhaf.espaces-naturels.fr/accueil/#partenaires. [25/11/04]


Presentations for the Pan-European Ramsar meeting. The 5th European Regional Meeting on the implementation and effectiveness of the Ramsar Convention will be taking place in Yerevan, Armenia, from 4 to 8 December 2004. "How best to implement the Convention? Are we doing enough? Are our approaches still adapted to new pressures of an evolving situation in Europe and the World? Where can we do better? What are our constraints? How to overcome them? Where does the Ramsar Convention stand at the beginning of the 21st century? How to interact with our partners and other stakeholders?" -- these are some of the Aims of the Meeting, and many of the papers and presentations that will be read and discussed during the sessions can now be previewed here in PDF format, with still more to follow early next week. [24/11/04]


Ramsar and Danone promote safe access to water in Cambodia. For more than 10 years, hydrogeologist Pierre Gubri has been digging wells in the villages of the Banteay Srei province, first from his own efforts and then with the help of the Ramsar Convention and the DANONE/Evian Fund, and a total of 34 wells and water pumps have been built in three communes and eight villages. The project has been funded by the Ramsar Convention, through the DANONE/Evian Fund for the year 2004, with the aim of raising local communities' awareness of the wise use of water and the conservation of wetlands - through the establishment of a "safe" water system. It reflects the broader water vision the Ramsar Convention is now developing. In the next few years, with the continuation of the DANONE/Evian Fund, Ramsar will maintain its support to this project and almost certainly develop similar projects. On 17 November 2004, a delegation from the Ramsar Convention and the DANONE Group went to the villages of Banteay Srei for the official ceremony celebrating the end of the first phase of the project and the finalization of the first 34 wells - Sebastià Semene Guitart provides the story. [22/11/04]


Kyoto Protocol to enter into force 16 February 2005. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) announced on 18 November that "The 90-day countdown to the Kyoto Protocol's entry into force was triggered today by the receipt of the Russian Federation's instrument of ratification by the United Nations Secretary-General. The Protocol will become legally binding on its 128 Parties on 16 February 2005. 'A period of uncertainty has closed. Climate change is ready to take its place again at the top of the global agenda,' said Joke Waller-Hunter, Executive Secretary of the Climate Change Secretariat, which services the UN Climate Change Convention and its Kyoto Protocol." More (PDF). [19/11/04]


Ramsar sets targets in Mexico. The Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources of Mexico, His Exc. Alberto CárdenasJiménez (pictured left), the Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention, Mr. Peter Bridgewater, and the Director General of the Canadian Wildlife Service and Chair of the Ramsar Standing Committee's subgroup on finance, Mr. Trevor Swerdfager, opened the 3rd Pan-American Regional meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. Speaking in the name of President Vicente Fox, Minister Cárdenas reiterated the importance of the conservation of wetlands and water resources in Mexico's political agenda, already demonstrated last February with the designation of 34 Ramsar sites for World Wetlands Day 2004. "Conserving and using wetlands in a sustainable way is very important at the regional scale and fundamental to recover the environmental health of our planet", said Cárdenas, while highlighting the need for an integrated approach in managing water resources at the river basins scale "taking into account the social perspective and the search for a sustainable human development, which is everyone's responsibility". Full story (with pictures) here. Reported by Sebastià Semene Guitart, Ramsar Secretariat [09/11/04]


Evian Encounter on Himalayan region. Ramsar's Evian Encounter for the Himalaya-Hindu Kush-Pamir-Allay region and the Mekong River basin countries is presently under way in Evian, France, 1-6 November 2004. The Evian Encounter series of seminars is part of a Ramsar Convention project financed by the France-based Danone Group, which includes the Evian Mineral Waters Society. The Encounters are designed to be discussions among high-level officials from the Contracting Parties to the Convention of current approaches to the implementation of the Ramsar Convention. This year's session, however, is being organized for both Contracting and non-Contracting Parties from the area under study. As the Himalayas function as Asia's water tower and are popularly known as the "roof of the world", with unique ecological and cultural values, they require a global focus for action. The Ramsar Convention Secretariat is very pleased to see a regional initiative emerging from the collective efforts of the countries in the region supported by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), WWF International, and Ramsar, as well as individual experts. This meeting will be a further step to consolidate the initiative and define its modus operandi for effective regional cooperation on the conservation and wise use of wetlands in this shared watershed, in continuing fulfillment of Ramsar Resolution VIII.12 on mountain wetlands. Here is the programme in PDF format. [01/11/04]


Seminar on the role of ecosystems as water suppliers, Geneva, 13-14 December 2004. Switzerland is organizing a seminar on the role of ecosystems as water suppliers which will take place on 13 and 14 December 2004 in Geneva, at the Palais des Nations. The Seminar is being prepared by the Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape and the Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations (UNECE) secretariat of the Water Convention, in close cooperation with that of the 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and of the UNECE Timber Committee. Please find the information under: http://www.unece.org/env/water/meetings/ecosystem/seminar.htm. The need to adopt an integrated approach and the role of ecosystems in water management has been increasingly recognized in past years, but putting it into practice with concrete measures is a complex exercise and a great challenge for every country. The seminar seeks to take stock of the available experience in the UNECE region, share best practices and bring in valuable expertise from other regions. To this aim Mr. Philippe Roch, Swiss State Secretary, has addressed a letter to the Ministers of Environment, Forestry and Agriculture in the UNECE region inviting them to submit national reports on the practical experience of integration of forests and wetlands in water management. [01/11/04]

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