Wetland Training for Armenian and Georgian Protected Area Managers
The Caucasus is among the planet's 25 most diverse and endangered biodiversity hotspots. Historically interpreted as the isthmus between Europe and Asia, it covers a total area of 500,000 km². Its deserts and wetlands, steppes and forests contain more than twice the animal diversity found in adjacent regions.
Biodiversity of the Caucasus is being lost at an alarming rate. Nearly half of the lands have been transformed by human activities, and the wetlands have been the most heavily impacted, especially in Armenia and Georgia. The major threats to wetland biodiversity in the region are illegal logging, overgrazing, poaching, extensive fishery, pollution, and reclamation into agricultural and urban areas.
The Caucasus hotspot is a globally significant center of cultural diversity, where a multitude of ethnic groups, languages, and religions intermingle, including the nations of Armenia and Georgia. Close cooperation across borders is required for conservation of unique and threatened ecosystems.
A significant step towards cooperation between protected area and wetland managers from Armenia and Georgia was a training course organized by the NGO "Professional and Entrepreneurial Orientation Union" in close cooperation with the Ministry of Nature Protection of Armenia and with the resources made available by the Critical Environment Partnership Fund (CEPF).
From 24 September to 5 October 2007, 24 participants from Armenia and Georgia participated in the wetland management training course. Protected area managers from Armenian "Sevan" and "Dilijan" national parks, Georgian "Kolkheti" National Park and "Kobuleti" Nature Reserve, civil servants, scientists, businessmen and NGO members lived and worked together in the comfortable resort situated on the shore of Lake Sevan, which is the largest Ramsar site of Armenia and the whole Caucasus region.
Such variety of participant's background made the teaching process exciting due to lively discussions and disputes, since representatives of different organizations were trying to protect their 'own sectoral' interests. Expecting that, maximum attention was given to stakeholder identification and analysis, in particular the influence of different groups of stakeholders on the decision-making process and their dependence on wetlands.
Susanna Hakobyan (National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, CEPA national non-governmental focal point) took leadership in the organization of the course. Among other themes she presented effective and rapid methods of biological indication of water quality using aquatic invertebrates. Ivane Tsiklauri (WWF Caucasus Program Office) presented fundamental principles of ecology. Khatuna Tsiklauri (Ministry of Environment Protection and Natural Resources of Georgia) and Karen Jenderedjian (Ministry of Nature Protection of Armenia, Ramsar National Focal Point) jointly made a comparative analysis of current status of environmental legislation and the protected area network in their countries in relation to wetlands.
During excursions the participants had to work out several assignments related to wetland valuation and monitoring, water quality bioindication, and protected area guarding. Very useful was involvement of the participants in the teaching processes - directly, as lecturer or mentor, and indirectly, through seminars and practical work in the field.
The two weeks of intensive work led to development of four draft wetland management plans. Work on management planning was done in international groups that were split up in such a way that all four groups had a ministerial bureaucrat and a ranger familiar with wetlands. Management plans were developed throughout lively disputes and even heated arguments.
Presentation of management plans was done by posters which listed the objectives and actions and showed a drawn sketch map of a wetland. The posters were explained by one participant per group, after which other participants could make interventions. This made the presentations really a group work activity.
Participants came to the conclusion that the importance of cooperation of Armenian and Georgian environmentalists is evident, as evident as the centuries-old co-existence of these brotherly nations in the unique region called Caucasus. They anticipate continuing their contacts, and asked for new training courses, focusing on specific issues, such as ecotourism, sustainable hunt, combat against bird flu, etc. Another idea is the organization of joint study tours for wetland and protected area managers in Armenia and Georgia.
The organizers have every reason to hope that this already established cooperation and friendship will have its logical development.
Finally, the organizers thanks the CEPF for funding, the Ramsar administrative authorities in Armenia and Georgia for support in organizational aspects, and the WWF Caucasus and WWF Armenian program offices for constant interest and valuable advice.
-- Karen Jenderedjian
The River Debed flowing out of Armenia
The Debed entering Georgia from Armenia
A mini-market on the Armenian-Georgian border
WWF Caucasus office in Tblisi: discussing the course set-up
Armenian delegation in the office of Kobuleti National Park Director Jibladze
Lake Paleostomi supports livelihoods
In the office of the Kobuleti Nature Reserve
Mire Ispani 2
Listening to a lecture
A lecture on basic ecology, abiotic factors
Samvel Baloyan, Arpine Jenderdjian
Khatuna and Susanna
Visit to the Miavar fish breeding factory in the Ararat Valley
Beluga sturgeon fries
Museum of Sevan National Park
Lake Parz in Dilijan National Park
Group photo, Dilijan
Lunch time together
Handing out certificates