Conference on the Sustainable Use of Wetland Resources in Astana, Kazakhstan (11-14 May, 2011)

Conference on the Sustainable Use of Wetland Resources in Astana, Kazakhstan (11-14 May, 2011)

29 June 2011

The sustainable use of wetlands in Kazakhstan is a critical issue because of the country’s limited water resources. As a result, a UNDP/GEF/RoK Government project was initiated in 2004 entitled “Integrated Conservation of Globally Significant Wetland Habitat: a Demonstration on Three Sites”, to promote the integrated conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in the delta of the Ural River, the Alakol-Sasykkol lakes and the Tengiz-Korgalzhyn lakes.

View of Alakol Lake

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Ramsar Convention, the UNDP/GEF project held an international scientific and practical conference entitled ‘Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Use of Wetland Resources’ from 11 – 14 May, 2011 to showcase successful wetlands conservation activities undertaken in Central Asian countries.

The conference was attended by experts from Belarus, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and officials from the Kazakh Ministries of Environmental Protection, Tourism and Sport, and Agriculture. Conference participants exchanged experiences in biodiversity conservation, strengthening national legislation on wetlands conservation, methods to improve the network of protected areas, as well as successful experiences for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.

Participants at the conference

During the conference, the participants heard how the UNDP/GEF project together with the Committee for Forestry and Hunting, prepared the way for Kazakhstan to join the Ramsar Convention in 2007. The Chairman of the Committee for Forestry and Hunting (Ministry of Agriculture, RoK), also stated how the project prepared justifications for nominating three sites (Ural River Delta with adjacent Caspian coast, Alakol-Sassykkol Lakes and Teniz-Korgalzhyn Lakes) to the Ramsar List. At present, with the project contribution, Kazakhstan now has seven Ramsar wetlands covering 1,626,768 ha.

View of Nura River within the Teniz-Korgalzhyn Lakes Ramsar Site

On the second day of the conference, the participants visited the Teniz-Korgalzhyn Lakes Ramsar Site which is dominated by salt- and fresh-water wetlands and supports a unique biodiversity. This includes over 60 threatened species included in the Kazakhstan’s Red Book, e.g. Steppe Eagle and White-tailed Eagle, and species included in the IUCN Red List, such as Saiga, Marmot, Sociable Lapwing and Pale Harrier which are found in the steppe. During the summer moulting and autumn migrations, the extensive and forage-rich wetlands accommodate many birds such as dozens of thousands of geese, hundreds of thousands of dabbling and diving ducks and shorebirds. In 2008, together with the Naurzum Reserve the Korgalzhyn reserve was recognized as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site.

Participants enjoying the scenery at Teniz-Korgalzhyn Lakes Ramsar Site

The conference participants also visited the Visitor Center of the Korgalzhyn Reserve, made a visit to the Karazhar cordon, and had an opportunity to see how the automated weather station and solar batteries installed by the Wetlands Project worked. While being in the reserve the participants enjoyed the beauties of the Teniz Lake which is a birds’ heaven.

Group photograph of the participantsParticipants at the Visitor Centre, Korgalzhyn Reserve

Mr. Talgat Kerteshev (UNDP National Project Manager) said that the UNDP project had prepared new regulations and facilitated changes in the existing environmental legislation of Kazakhstan. The project also elaborated and demonstrated new social and economic approaches to the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources of the globally significant wetlands at the three project sites. This included enlarging the Korgalzhyn and the Alakol Reserves and established a new protected area at the Akzhaiyk Nature Reserve in the Ural River delta and adjacent Caspian coast, with an area of 111,500 ha. Today, the total area of three wetlands is 719,889 ha (25,5% of the total area of the wetlands). All three sites now have approved 5-year Management Plans, which are also new for protected areas in Kazakhstan. The project also provided the basis for alternative livelihoods, and facilitated activities to raise public awareness of the uniqueness of the wetlands.

View of the Tentek River in the Alakol Ramsar Site

Report by Dr. Aray Belgubayeva (UNDP Kazakhstan Wetland Project)