Belarus designates part of transboundary wetlands
The Secretariat is very pleased to announce that the Republic of Belarus has designated its eighth Wetland of International Importance, effective 18 October 2005. As summarized by Ramsar's Dorothea August from the Ramsar Information Sheet that accompanied the designation, Prostyr (6,800 hectares, 51°56 N 026°03 E), a National Landscape Reserve and Important Bird Area, is a complex of near-natural sedge and reed fen mires together with black alder groves and scrub formations along the banks and floodplain meadows between the rivers Pripyat, Prostyr and Styr, continuing as a transboundary wetland across the Ukrainian border. It is a breeding ground of the globally endangered Aquatic Warbler and generally one of the most important nesting sites during the migration season. Such eutrophic floodplain mires are typical of the Belarusian Polesie area, but they have become rare as a result of heavy drainage activities since the 1960s and have practically disappeared in Central Europe. Presently a system of old drainage canals is still draining fen mires, which has negative impacts particularly in the summer, when it causes the groundwater table to drop significantly. In general there are only small scale economic activities on the site, chiefly occasional haymaking and cattle grazing, with some hunting and non-commercial fishing. As there are no roads, boats are the only means of accessing the Prostyr Reserve.
Discussions with Ukrainian authorities are continuing towards uniting Prostyr in a Belarusian-Ukrainian transboundary Ramsar site, including Ukraine's Prypiat River Floodplains and Stokhid River Floodplains Ramsar sites, with development of a joint management plan. This project opens the potential for increasing international tourism in this region.