Caño Negro Ramsar Site in Costa Rica, a shallow freshwater lagoon near the Nicaraguan border, surrounded by seasonally inundated marshes and woodland, has suffered from the effect of serious forest fires, especially during El Niño years, worsened by the tradition of burning fields by local farmers. Early in 2003 4,000 ha were scorched by flames. This emergency has overstretched the available equipment and personnel, so urgent action is needed to implement a forest fire prevention and control strategy for the site. The Small Grants Fund is funding an emergency project there with 13,500 Swiss francs to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment of fires in the area, create fire brigades from local dwellers for fire management and control, improve infrastructure and acquire fire fighting equipment, and implement an environmental education campaign about the wise use of wetlands. The project, starting in August-September 2003, will be undertaken by administrators of the Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge.
-- reported by Iván Dario Valencia, Ramsar