After a symposium in February 1991 in Grado (Italy), the idea for a structured programme of cooperation on Mediterranean wetlands took shape. In 1999, the positive results of the first years of cooperation convinced Ramsar COP7 to formally recognize the newly established Mediterranean Wetlands Committee (MedWet/Com), as the governing body for what became the first Ramsar regional initiative.
More recently, on 31 May-3 June 2010, Ramsar’s Senior Advisor Tobias Salathé reports that MedWet/Com met for its 10th meeting near Bastia on the shores of Biguglia lagoon (Ramsar site N°520) in Corsica, hosted by the French Ministry of Ecology and the local authorities. Details of the meeting and its outcomes can be found here:
Tobias Salathé writes that French and Corsican hospitality were remarkable, and the meeting will be remembered for a number of reasons:
For the first time, the initial session was open to the public and attracted citizen, experts and NGO representatives who came to learn about the new French National Action Plan on Wetlands. Ministerial experts from the French National Wetlands Committee present were joined by representatives from the national farmers’ union, the ports’ authorities, the private sector, and research and conservation organisations. This reflected well the composition of the new National Wetlands Committee, established in 2009. During the second part, close to 200 persons listened to an interactive presentation on wetland work in Corsica by experts of national and regional organisations. Their structured dialogues addressed water management, environmental safety, flood mitigation, biodiversity conservation, fisheries, agriculture, forestry, cultural heritage, coastal development and marine issues, to name but the most important ones.
|Participants of MedWet/Com 10 discover the brand new visitors’ centre at Biguglia lagoon||Mauricette Figarella and Dominique Tasso, the organisers from the Regional Office for the Environment, Planning and Housing (DREAL)|
The environmental class of Martine Philibert of the high school of Ile Rousse in Corsica started working on wetlands several months ahead of the meeting and presented their filmed summary of their role play on how to manage Biguglia lagoon. A refreshing presentation that eventually lead the Committee to adopt a decision to promote the further involvement of young students in MedWet activities and to connect the Ile Rousse college with youth in Greece to continue their work.
|School children of Ile Rousse giving a TV interview about their contribution to the meeting and what they got in return|
The technical section of the meeting was focusing on transboundary cooperation and illustrated the issue with the Prespa lakes region, shared between Albania, Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, celebrating in 2010 ten years of active cooperation (see here our earlier report). A study tour brought the MedWet/Com 10 participants to the southern tip of Corsica, where France and Italy were about to sign a bilateral agreement towards the establishment of an international marine park in the Straights of Bonifacio, based on the existing National Park in Sardinia and the protected area in Corsica. Ramsar hopes that this will become the first transboundary marine Ramsar site, including in its terrestrial part the existing Ramsar site N°1651 of the Suartone temporary marshes. On the return trip, MedWet/Com visited the Del Sale marshes to learn about the history of wetland drainage in the eastern plain to claim agricultural land and fight malaria, as well as the new plans to restore wetland ecosystems and the historical drainage installations for educative purposes. Finally, the day ended with a memorable party on the shores of Ramsar site N°1831, the privately owned Urbino lagoon.
|MedWet/Com participants having their picknick overlooking the marine protected area of the Straits of Bonifacio, hopefully a future Ramsar site||Participants visiting the remains of the historical pump house at Del Sale marshes|
MedWet/Com 10 also elected a new Steering Group, chaired by France, with Morocco (Tunisia as alternate), Greece and Jordan (Lebanon as alternate) as state members, and Tour du Valat Foundation and IUCN representing the non-governmental members. This group will guide the work of MedWet during the coming triennium and provide advice and support to the Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory and a number of new international projects. A promising outlook for Ramsar’s oldest regional initiative celebrating in 2011 its 20th anniversary (and Ramsar’s 40th).
|Evening festivities on the shores of Urbino lagoon, where Lily Mordechai, MedWet’s communication officer, enjoys locally produced oysters|