Workshop on Biodiversity and Sustainable Management of High-Andean Wetlands, Chile, 2002

Workshop on Biodiversity and Sustainable Management of High-Andean Wetlands, Chile, 2002

16 December 2002

The workshop on International Experiences relevant to the Conservation of Biodiversity and Sustainable Management of High-Andean Wetlands took place in Iquique, Chile, 5-6 December 2002 and was attended by more than 100 people representing local communities and indigenous people, local and regional government officials, university professors, private sector staff and international experts from Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica and Peru, with the financial support of GEF/UNDP, the Centre of Development Studies (CED), and the mining company Collahuasi.

The workshop was supported by the following institutions: the Ramsar Convention; Intendencia Regional de Tarapacá; Gobernación Provincial de Iquique; Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente - CONAMA (Región de Tarapacá); Secretaría Regional Ministerial de Minería (Región de Tarapacá); Dirección General de Aguas (Región de Tarapacá); Corporación Nacional Forestal - CONAF (Región de Tarapacá); Ilustre Municipalidad de Pica; y Asociación Indígena Aymara Laguna del Huasco.

The meeting was opened by the Executive Director of CED, who made reference to the importance of fostering trust between the different actors and building bridges. The head of Cabinet of the Governor of Iquique also attended the opening ceremony on behalf of the Governor, who could not be present at the event.

A university professor from Chile University, Ramsar's STRP Focal Point at the national level and head of the National Wetlands Committee, made a presentation on high-andean wetland ecology and stressed problems related to climate change and over-use of water in a particular wetland in the north of Chile, which are causing serious salinization of the wetland. She stressed the need to carry out more research on the impacts of climate change upon these wetlands, as well as possible mitigation measures.

The representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) made a presentation on the GEF projects supported through UNDP on wetland management, including several Ramsar sites in Latin America and the Caribbean. He stressed lessons learned and made specific recommendations on future development and implementation of this type of projects.

Ramsar's Regional Coordinator for the Americas made a general presentation on Ramsar, followed by a detailed presentation on the resolution of High-Andean wetlands, as well as the new planning guidelines, adopted in Valencia during the COP8, and the requirements for adequate management of these vulnerable ecosystems. She also stressed the importance of fully implementing the water allocation guidelines, as well as the resolution on participatory management and the guidelines on local community participation that were adopted by COP7.

(from left) Eduardo Fuentes, consultant from UNDP; Margarita Astràlaga, Ramsar; Guillermo Espinoza, CED.

The representative of Costa Rica made a presentation on the lessons learned regarding ecotourism in protected areas and mentioned the management activities that are being carried out in all Ramsar sites in Costa Rica. She stressed the usefulness of the Montreux Record for the management and restoration of Ramsar sites that are facing ecological change.

The representative of Peru made an analyisis of what has happened with the management and conservation of Junin Ramsar site, one of the high-andean wetland in his country. He stressed the achievements and threats that are being faced by the site. He mentioned in particular the problems related to pollution.

The experience of Argentina in the conservation and management of high-andean wetlands was highlighted by an expert from that country -- two of these are already Ramsar sites, Vilama and Pozuelos, and one of them, Parinas, is being considered for future designation. She also stressed the important contribution of the Flamingo Regional Group which has encouraged joint research, management activities, exchange of experiences and designation of new sites.

The experience of Bolivia with their high-andean wetlands was also presented and the great benefit of the Flamingo Regional Group was again particularly highlighted. Lessons learned in the process of designation of Poopo and Uru Uru lagoons with Ramsar's support was stressed.

The CONAF representative made a thorough presentation on his institution's activities in the first three regions of Chile, and highlighted all the projects which are taking place in Chile regarding management and conservation of wetlands in this area. He stressed the important achievements that have been made thanks to Ramsar's support, as well as that of CMS, WCS and the private sector. He also made a short summary of the Ramsar-CONAF project on the strategy for management of the high-andean wetlands in the north of Chile that was thoroughly discussed during the workshop that took place in Iquique on 8 December 2002.

A representative from the private sector, a mining company, made a presentation on the company's perception of biodiversity protection in the Salar del Huasco Ramsar site, where they are carrying out their operations. He provided a detailed description of all their activities and the payments they've made to the Government in taxes as well as their contributions towards research and education. He also mentioned the employment generated through his company and its requirements to run the operation.

The CED representative made a presentation on the GEF/UNDP project on conservation and sustainable development of the Ramsar site Salar del Huasco, stressing the importance of public and private participation in the process.

A consultant from CED made an introduction to the Ecosystem Approach and its importance in designing and preparing conservation strategies of wetlands.

A legal consultant made a presentation on the serious legal constraints that exist in Chile to manage sites such as the Salar del Huasco Ramsar site, owing to gaps in the existing legislation and the inadequacy of the environmental responsibilities covered by CONAF and CONAMA. He stressed that a management plan and the zoning made through it would not have a legal basis unless it is prepared under a tourism piece of legislation.

The representative of the mayor of Pica made a presentation on their concerns about the future of the Ramsar site and the importance of finding sustainable development solutions for the future of the communities.

The president of the Asociación Indígena Aymara Laguna del Huasco made a presentation highlighting the concerns of the indigenous communities in the area.

The Regional Director of the Dirección General de Aguas made a comprehensive presentation on their present knowledge about the hydrogeological model of the Salar del Huasco.

The National Subdirector for the North of CONADI (National Commission for the Development of Indigenous People) made reference to the frequent complaints he receives from indigenous people regarding the impacts that mining companies are causing. He made a remark that deserves quoting and remembering: 'Water is inseparable from soil, as blood is from the body'.

Additional presentations were made by the Regional Director of CONAF, CONAMA and the Regional Mining Secretariat stressing their concerns and priorities regarding the project.

The meeting was closed by the President of the Association of Rural Municipalities and the Governor of Iquique, who expressed their support to the activities and the project being carried out with UNDP/GEF support as well as with the financial support of the private sector.

On Saturday 7 December a full day' visit to Salar del Huasco Ramsar site was carried out.

Participants List (PDF)

Photos (below)

Margarita Astràlaga's presentation on the importance of Ramsar resolutions bearing upon high-andean wetlands

Margarita Astràlaga presented with a copy of the minutes of the last Aymara congress by the President of the Agricultural Association of Salar del Huasco and a representative of the Aymaras from Arica.

The President of the Aymara Association of Salar del Huasco, Mr Juan Carlos Mamani

At the Salar del Huasco Ramsar site (from left): Patricia Marconi, Argentina; Omar Rocha and Mauro Alcoba, Bolivia; Luis Contreras, Chile; Margarita Astràlaga, Ramsar; Fernando Valenzuela and Guillermo Espinoza from CED; Jenny Asch, Costa Rica; Juan Fernandez, Chilean Association of Municipalities.

Margarita Astràlaga and the Salar del Huasco