Ramsar training and the Iraqi wetlands

Ramsar training and the Iraqi wetlands

22 June 2005

Ramsar and UNEP-IETC working together for the Iraqi Marshlands

Twenty eight Iraqi participants are currently in Cairo, Egypt, 19-26 June 2005, benefiting from a 'Training Module on Wetland Management'. This course that Ramsar is assisting in is one of 10 training modules organized by the United Nations Environment Programme, Division of Technology Industry and Economics, International Environmental Technology Centre (UNEP-DTIE-IETC). The ultimate goal? The restoration and future sustainable management of the Iraqi marshlands.

The Iraqi marshlands constitute the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East and are of considerable socio-economic value, especially as a source of freshwater and a source of livelihood for local communities. The destruction of the marshlands is viewed by the international community as one of the major environmental and humanitarian disasters facing Iraq. In response to this, UNEP launched the project 'Support for environmental management of the Iraqi Marshlands' resulting in the ten training modules.

The course has been funded by UNEP-DTIE-IETC who also have overall coordinated the training module with the cooperation of the University of Cairo. The Ramsar Convention, under an MOU with UNEP-IETC, has worked with Wetlands International (WI), the International Agricultural Centre (IAC), and Institute for Inland Water and Waste Water Treatment (RIZA) to develop and present most of the course.

This particular course brings together a broad range of actors in the management of the marshlands including representatives from the Iraqi government from both the wetland sector (Ministry of Environment) and the water sector (Ministry of Water), as well as university lecturers, teachers, and NGOs including the Marsh Arab Forum. Together they represent a considerable body of knowledge of the marshlands and their enthusiasm has generated some lively discussion sessions.

During seven intensive days of work and a field trip to Egypt's Lake Burullus Ramsar Site, participants will be introduced to the policy and institutional aspects of wetland management, river basin management, socio-economic aspects of management as well as community participation, and the work of relevant international conventions, such as Ramsar.

Two of Ramsar's staff, Lei Guangchun, the Senior Regional Advisor for Asia, and Sandra Hails, CEPA Programme Officer, are assisting in the training and have already made presentations on the role of intergovernmental environmental conventions in wetland management. UNEP-IETC staff, Vicente Santiago and Dima Reda, have introduced the UNEP water policy and Strategy and given participants some hands-on experience with the ESTIS software (Environmentally Sound Technology Information System). Beginning today, 22 June, is the main hands-on section of the training which is being delivered by Esther Koopmanschap (IAC) and Tim Dodman (Wetlands International).

-- reported by Sandra Hails

Tim Dodman leading a session. For security reasons UNEP has advised us NOT to show pictures of Iraqi participants where their faces are recognizable.

Rich pictures is a technique used by the trainers during the session on National Wetland Policy development. It was used in group work to assist in developing a 'vision' for the marshlands in 15 years time and 50 years time. The photos show groups working on the picture and then one participant briefly presenting his group's picture to everyone.

Dr Sandra Hails, Ramsar, facing otherwhere

Dr Lei Guangchun, Ramsar