Evian Ramsar Information Centre inaugurated

Evian Ramsar Information Centre inaugurated

11 October 2002

Ramsar Information Centre inaugurated in Evian, France

On 25 September 2002, the Ramsar Information Centre and the Pré Curieux Water Gardens were formally opened in Evian, France, with a tour of the premises, ample explanations and a few speeches, and semi-re-frozen canapés in the gardens in a bitter north wind. The estate of Pré Curieux on the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) -- almost visible from the Ramsar Bureau on the Swiss side of the lake -- has been purchased and renovated by the town of Evian, the department of Haute Savoie, and the region of Rhône-Alpes with the semi-governmental French organization Conservatoire du Littoral, in the context of the Ramsar Evian Project financed since 1998 by the private-sector Groupe Danone and its Evian Waters subsidiary and the government of France.

The Evian Project has enabled the Convention on Wetlands and the Conservatoire du Littoral to carry out a multi-faceted programme of work over the past four years, including

  • seminars for decision-makers from around the world (called the Evian Encounters), technical meetings, and awareness raising activities as far afield as Cambodia;
  • communications projects developed mainly from the Ramsar Bureau, including Ramsar videos, World Wetlands Day posters and brochures, the Ramsar Exhibit, cash prizes for the triennial Ramsar Awards, and translation of Ramsar publications into various local languages;
  • numerous training sessions for Ramsar site managers along the East Atlantic network, an Inland Sea Delta network, and a Northeast Asia crane network; and
  • other training courses on inventory techniques (Papua New Guinea), transfrontier cooperation (China, Mongolia, and Russia), training for isolated site managers (Armenia, Kenya, Pakistan), and for Ramsar site managers in francophone African countries.

The 3-hectare site at Pré Curieux
has been developed into a very special wetland centre, featuring the estate building itself, with exhibits on the Ramsar Convention, the Evian region, and the gardens themselves, and then the two-gardens-in-one: the "formal water garden" and "a more natural Wild Water Garden". The garden's mission is "to participate in the Ramsar Convention; to increase public awareness of the value and fragility of wetlands, by creating a centre of research and communication, and; to develop a network of people with parts to play in the development and management of wetlands".

Tourists and nature lovers approach the site by boat from the lakeside pier in Evian itself, a journey of about 15 minutes which adds to their experience and at the same time helps to manage the numbers of people in the gardens at one time.

Nature selected a cold, blustery day for the inauguration festivities, but numerous Ramsar Bureau staff accompanied French government dignitaries and conservation workers through a guided tour of the gardens, explanations of the history and purpose of the site and the exhibits, utterly charming speeches of welcome from the major players involved, and a light lunch afterward out in the brutal wind.

Here are some photos.

The barque arrives at the Evian pier to pick up frozen Ramsar staff and othersRamsar's Paulette Kennedy, Julio Montes de Oca, and Ibrahim Shaame prepare to freeze to death
Ibrahim Shaame and Mireille Katz all at seaJust right centre, Christophe Lefebvre and François Letourneux of the Conservatoire du Littoral
The Pré Curieux water gardens and Ramsar Information Centre, in Evian, France
Two more views of the Pré Curieux
The Secretary General learns about wetlands
The crowd tumbles into the Ramsar exhibits
Mr Blasco, tiring of reading exhibit texts which, for the most part, he wrote, looks upward again
One of the quiz sections (What's the smallest Ramsar site? Hosnie's Spring.)
Christophe Lefebvre, chief organizer of the event and the site, representing the Conservatoire du Littoral
The ground floor from Christophe's vantage
Ramsar staff members addicted to the exhibits
The Secretary General in an interview with the press
Madame Keller in a moment of repose
Plan of the Pré Curieux water gardens and information centre
Explanation of the 3D contour maquette of the Evian region
Explanation of the formal gardens
Half-frozen Senior Communications Assistant
Mme Christiane Barret, Directrice de la Nature et des Paysages of the government of France, and Christophe Lefebvre in the gardens
Explanation of the "wild" part of the gardens

Yves Buchsenschutz, Directeur Général des Eaux Minérales d'Evian (facing the camera) and Mr Delmar Blasco, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention (not facing the camera)

Franck Riboud, Directeur Général du Groupe Danone (left, being interviewed), and François Letourneux, Directeur du Conservatoire de l'espace littoral et des rivages lacustres, talking with Mme Barret
Time for the allocutions: Christophe Lefebvre makes the introductions
Marc Francina, Mayor of Evian, gets things off to a lively start
François Letourneux, Director of the Conservatoire du Littoral, increases the pace
Ms Christiane Barret, Director of Nature and the Countryside in the Government of France, keeps the event rolling along at a brisk pace

Mr Blasco, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention, wields his speech like a weapon

Mr Franck Riboud, Director General of the Danone Group, expressed his organization's pleasure in helping to fund tangible hands-on like the Ramsar Centre in Evian

The Secretary General was reluctant, in the end, to let go of the microphone.

Adjournment to the tent outside, where abundant Champagne and hors-d'oeuvres had been laid on for the guests in the blistering north wind.

To arrange a visit to the Pré Curieux water gardens, telephone the Office de Tourisme d'Evian, France 04 50 75 04 26.