Uganda, host of the next Ramsar COP, lists second Wetland of International Importance

Uganda, host of the next Ramsar COP, lists second Wetland of International Importance

16 February 2004

Lake Nabugabo wetland system

The Secretariat is extremely pleased to be able to announce that Uganda has listed its second Wetland of International Importance, following Lake George designated 15 years ago. The new designation, an extraordinarily interesting site in its own right, is also very timely as Uganda is pursuing its preparations for hosting the Convention's 9th COP in November 2005, and very appropriate since Uganda has long been a leader in wetland policy in Africa and developed one of the world's first National Wetland Policies based on Ramsar principles (in 1995, following Canada and New Zealand).

As described by Ramsar's Nassima Aghanim, based upon the RIS compiled by Paul Mafabi, Uganda's national focal point for the Convention, "Lake Nabugabo wetland system" (22,000 ha; 00°24'S 031°54'E) is a shallow freshwater lake 8.2km long by 5km wide, with three smaller lakes, separated from Lake Victoria by a sand bar ca.2km wide; there are no surface outflows from the lakes, only seepage through the sand bank. The lakes, separated from Victoria for the past 3,700 years, are very interesting for the fish and their evolutionary history: several endemic fish remain that have become depleted or extinct in Victoria by the introduction of Nile perch.

The lakes are an important migratory stopover-destination for migratory bird species - at times during the year, the site (listed as an Important Bird Area) holds more than 15% of the world's population of the Blue Swallow and support five globally threatened and near-threatened birds: Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea, Shoe Bill Balaeniceps rex, Great Snipe Gallinago media, Pallied Harrier Circus macrourus, and the Papyrus Gonolek Laniarius mufumbi. The system supports a high diversity of plant species, including insectivores of the family Droseraceae. The lakes have long served local communities for subsistence and commercial fish, sources of water, and handicraft materials; under population pressures, crop cultivation and dairy farming are increasing. There are a number of holiday and conference centres, and boating and swimming are especially popular as the lake has a reputation for being free of schistosomiasis (bilharzia). Under the national constitution (1995), all wetlands are held in trust for the people, though some farms and resorts have long-term leases. Ramsar site no. 1373.