Meeting of French Ramsar site managers in Evian

Meeting of French Ramsar site managers in Evian

26 October 2009
An important seminar for French Ramsar site managers took place on 7-8 October 2009 in Evian. It attracted about hundred participants, representing site managers, local politicians, the national Ramsar administrative authority, regional government representatives, water management authorities, wetland experts and conservation NGOs. The meeting was organized by BirdLife France (LPO) in cooperation with the Ministry of Ecology, its Water Management Agency, the Ramsar Secretariat and the Evian mineral waters company with financial support from the Danone-Evian Fund for Water, established in 1998 to support the implementation of the Ramsar Convention.

The seminar followed a first, smaller meeting for Ramsar site managers, held in March 2008 at the Ministry of Ecology in Paris. It aimed to develop exchanges between Ramsar site managers, to better define and coordinate specific Ramsar-related activities in France and to establish a national network of Ramsar site managers. It addressed administrative, operational and communication aspects linked to the management of Ramsar sites. Presentations of concrete case studies and the management experiences from wetlands in different parts of the country, notably the Camargue, Ile de Ré, Brenne Regional Nature Park, Baie de Somme, Marais Audomarois and others illustrated the points. The Ramsar administrative authority presented its new national call to step up the implementation of the Convention and discussed it with the participants in view of the development of a national Ramsar strategy by the newly established national group.

In the discussion it was mentioned that several legal protection instruments (at national and European Union level) exist which are (or should be) applied for Ramsar sites. The additional designation of a given wetland site for the Ramsar List provides it with a global visibility and a substantial number of specific instruments elaborated under the Convention. It is unfortunate however, that the Ramsar designation, and the use of this distinction, including the Ramsar logo for communication and public awareness purposes, is often completely lacking. While the concept of Biosphere Reserves (the most prestigious of them are also Ramsar sites) seems to be well understood by local decision makers, the “Ramsar” concept is unfortunately still a well-kept secret.

At the end of the seminar, the participants visited the Ramsar site of the Evian Impluvium (N°1833, designated in 2008), i.e. the mires on the nearby mountain plateau where rain and snow waters infiltrate the special aquifer, in order to reappear about 15 years later as mineral water at the famous Evian springs and the nearby bottling factory at Amphion, where they learnt about the environmental management of the industrial plant.

The seminar was a great success and triggered many valuable reflections and ideas for reinforced cooperation and coordination at national level. Hopefully, it will be followed up in 2010 by another meeting and the establishment of a national Ramsar site manager network.

The seminar provided the formal occasion for the local representative of the French Government (the “Sous-Préfet”) to hand over Ramsar site diplomas for the “Impluvium of Evian” to the director of the Evian mineral waters company (left) and the mayors of the communes sharing the Ramsar site area.

The visitor exhibit of the Evian mineral waters bottling factory explains the agreement reached between the company and the farmers of the Ramsar site in order to preserve the high quality of the underground waters through restrictions of fertilizer use and other potentially damaging farming practices. It also mentions the company’s partnership for wetland conservation with the Ramsar Convention.

At the end of the seminar, the visit of the “Impluvium of Evian” Ramsar site took place under heavy rainfall, recharging the underground aquifer. This picture of a sunny day shows the mires at the heart of the Ramsar site, at the occasion of a visit by an international journalist tour in 2008.