World Environment Day in Sudan -- designation of Sudan's second Ramsar site

World Environment Day in Sudan -- designation of Sudan's second Ramsar site

14 June 2006
Sudan, South Sudan

Ceremonies in Khartoum for World Environment Day and the designation of the Sudd Ramsar site, 5 June 2006

(Description and photos of Sudd)

Address by Denis Landenbergue/WWF, with message from Ramsar's Regional Adviser for Africa, Mr. Abou Bamba

Excellencies, Minister, Representatives of the diplomatic community, Delegates of Non-Governmental Organizations, Friends of the Wetlands and the Environment, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Salam Aleikum,

It is a great pleasure for me to be here today, about three years after my last visit in Sudan - a memorable one indeed, when I had the opportunity to discover two of SUDAN's fascinating wetlands:

  • the Dinder National Park, which in the meantime has become SUDAN's first Wetland of International Importance, in January 2005, when your country officially became a Contracting Party of the Ramsar Convention (At Dinder, I probably spent some of the hottest days in my life, with temperatures reaching over 45° Centigrade!)
  • The Sunut Forest, here in Khartoum - a rare category of urban wetland, offering a huge potential for public awareness and for environmental education - particularly for schools (The Sunut Forest certainly has for Khartoum a similar education value as two other wetlands I can think of and which are also located at the edge of important capital cities:

It was in September 2001 that, together with the Ramsar Secretariat, the Sudanese Ministry of Environment and Physical Development and the HCENR (Higher Council for Environment & Natural Resources) organized a first, pre-accession Workshop about the importance of this Convention - here in Khartoum.

The Ramsar Convention is one of the oldest International Environmental Conventions focusing on a very specific category of ecosystems: wetlands. It was established in the Iranian City of Ramsar, on the shore of the Caspian Sea, on 2nd February 1971.

2nd February has now become the World Wetlands Day, which is celebrated every year around the world in a growing number of Contracting Parties - 152 to date.

With a Secretariat based in Switzerland, near Geneva, the Convention can rely on the dedication of about 20-25 staff, including one Regional Adviser for each continent - Mr. Abou Bamba for Africa. Unfortunately Mr. Abou Bamba was not able to join us in Khartoum for the celebration of the World Environment Day.

However, he asked me, as Representative of WWF, the WorldWide Fund for Nature (one of five International Partner Organizations of the Convention, the others being IUCN/the World Conservation Union, Wetlands International, Birdlife International and the International Water Management Institute), to convey his apologies and his regrets for not being able to be with us today. He also requested that I say a few words on his behalf.

Last November, in Kampala, the engagement of Sudan was highly noticeable throughout the many discussions and negotiations which took place during the 9th Conference of the Ramsar Contracting Parties (COP9) - the first ever to be organized in Africa since the Convention was established 35 years ago.

The Kampala Conference selected a theme of very particular importance for the African Region: "Wetlands and Water: supporting life, sustaining livelihoods", highlighting the importance of wetlands and of their natural resources for poverty reduction.

Today, Sudan is officially announcing the designation of the Sudd as their second Wetland of International Importance - a highly important ecosystem as far as biodiversity and livelihoods are concerned, and also the the third largest Ramsar Site in the world (after the Okavango Delta in Botswana and the Queen Maud Gulf in Canada).

On behalf of the Ramsar Secretariat (and also on behalf of WWF, which supported the project through its Global Freshwater Programme), I would like to congratulate Sudan for the outsdanding achievement announced today for the occasion of World Environment Day.

With today's designation of the Sudd, the Ramsar List will now count 1609 Wetlands of International Importance, covering a total area of over 145 million hectares (exactly: 145.823.652 ha). As impressive as it may appear, this is equivalent to a little more that 10% of the world's global wetland area - estimated to be around 1.280.000 hectares.

While designating new Ramsar Sites certainly are remarkable and tangible contributions to the goals of the Convention on Wetlands (they relate to one of the three pillars of the Convention - the "Wetlands of International Importance" pillar), designating new Ramsar Sites isn't at all an end for itself.

It must rather be considered as a concrete step forward, and a valuable platform to draw the attention of the national and of the international community. And this includes, among others, potential donors that might be able and willing to support the sustainable management of those priority wetlands - for the benefit of both Man and Nature.

Obviously, the task ahead is immense - and it is encouraging to observe such commitment towards it by the Government of Sudan. We can legitimately be impressed by the increasing momentum in Sudan to tackle the challenges ahead.

It is particularly exciting to note that the next priorities identified in Sudan include: further enhancing the diversity and the representativity of Sudan's Ramsar Sites, establishing a National Wetlands Inventory, preparing and adopting a National Wetlands Policy, undertaking a review of the existing national legislation and of its wetland-related components, engaging in more scientific field work and in sustainable management of Ramsar Sites and other wetlands, etc. - much work to plan, mostly related to another of Ramsar's three pillars: the one about Wise Use of Wetlands.

The dynamism of Sudan in the field of regional and international cooperation (and this is about the third of Ramsar's key pillars) was already noticeable last November when a new regional initiative of high importance for Sudan was announced during COP9 as being under development: the "Nile River Basin Conservation and Development Initiative". Obviously, discussions and further developments about it have been making good progress since then, and surely there will be some outstanding progress to be announced at the next Ramsar Conference (COP10), scheduled for end October/early November 2008 in South Korea.

In conclusion, be assured that in the years to come, the Ramsar Secretariat will do their best to continue and enhance their support to Sudan in the further implementation of the Convention on Wetlands.

Hopefully WWF and other International NGOs will also be able to contribute to such promising developments too, Inshallah!

I thank you very much for your attention, and I wish you a very good World Environment Day.

The representative of WWF International (right) presenting the Ramsar site certificate for the Sudd marshes designation on behalf of Abou Bamba, Ramsar's Regional Advisor for Africa; (left) the Minister of Environment and Physical Development of Sudan, Dr. Ahmed Babikar Nehar,
and the Secretary General of HCENR, the Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources, Dr Saadeldin Ibrahim Mohammed Izzeldin

The Minister of Environment and Physical Development of Sudan, Dr. Ahmed Babikar Nehar,
announcing the designation of the Sudd as a Wetland of International Importance, World Environment Day 2006

Dr Salwa M. Abdel Hameed, Ramsar focal point for Sudan

Dr Asim I. elMoghraby, one of the four compilers of the Ramsar Information Sheet for the Sudd marshes

Dr Faisal A. Sinada, another member of the team of experts who compiled the Ramsar Information Sheet for the Sudd marshes

Sudan's State minister of Environment and Physical Development, Ms. Teresa Siricio Iro (second from left) enjoying a lunch meeting at Ramsar COP9 - a meeting where the planned designation of the Sudd was amongst the issues being discussed. In this photo, she is together with Mrs. Christiana Oshunsanya (Ramsar Focal Point for Nigeria, 1st from left), Mrs. Salwa Abdelhameed (Ramsar Focal Point for Sudan, third from left) and Mrs. Binta Moussa, Representative of CICOS - the International Commission for the Congo-Oubangui-Sangha River Basin

(Description and photos of Sudd)