Wetland education centres are essential for learning and training about wetlands, and Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention are encouraged to establish these centres at their wetland sites, especially Ramsar Sites.
Across Asia, there has been a growing interest in the development of wetland education centres but in recent years there have been concerns that greater attention has been paid to the construction of the buildings rather than to the delivery of communications, education, participation and awareness (CEPA) activities. To counter this, a workshop entitled ‘Best Practice for the Design and Operation of Wetland Education Centres’ in Seosan (Repulic of Korea) brought together over 100 practitioners from 15 countries to share their experiences.
Participants discussed how to set up a project establishing a centre, ensure the financial sustainability of the centre’s operation, and deliver the best location, sustainable building design, interpretation and programmes. The outcomes of their discussions along with case studies will be published in an online handbook in early 2014.
One of the good practices they identified was to agree with the stakeholders a project masterplan based on considerations such as the objectives of the centre, its location, an assessment of the possible number of visitors and the cost of construction and operation, bearing in mind that the centre would need to be financially self-sustaining.
Participants also stressed the importance of putting in place a system to collect visitors’ feedback and of ensuring that the interpretation and programmes are flexible enough to allow improvements based on the feedback.
The workshop was kindly hosted by the municipal government of Seosan City, and organized by the Environmental Ecosystem Research Foundation (ERF), the Ramsar Regional Centre – East Asia (RRC-EA) and the Ramsar Secretariat. Financial and in-kind support was generously provided by Biosphere Connection and UNEP-ROWA. The Ministry of Environment, Republic of Korea is generously funding the production of the online handbook in English and Korean. It is hoped that additional funds will be made available to translate it into other languages.
Report and photos by Lew Young, Senior Regional Advisor for Asia-Oceania