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Meeting report of regional technical seminar
National strategies and policies for wetlands
Beirut, Lebanon, 16-18 February 2004
Thursday 18 March 2004, by Web Team

4. Context for national wetland policy making

4.1 "The Ramsar strategic plan and its implementation in the Mediterranean region: the MedWet initiative"

Mr. Spyros Kouvelis reminded of the MedWet mission and of its working arrangements with the four established centers (in France, Spain, Greece and Portugal) and two in the making, namely in Italy and Morocco. He pointed out that MedWet has been able to mobilize some $40Million so far for wetland conservation in the region.

He then reminded of the Ramsar strategic plan which includes actions in the thematic areas of:

1. Wise use of wetlands
2. Wetlands of international importance
3. International cooperation
4. Implementation capacity, and
5. Membership

He pointed out that the application of the Strategy for 2003-2008 was approved in Izmir in June 2003 and invited the participants to consult the strategy document.

Referring to the Ramsar guidelines which Tobias will be presenting the next day, he reaffirmed that, though a strategy can take many forms, it is only useful if it is implemented. He also informed of the progress in the development of a MedWet initiative on agriculture and wetlands, pointing out that, for the Tunis meeting, farmers were present which rendered the discussions all the more relevant and pertinent.

Finally he recalled that the Mediterranean region has a delivery mechanism for implementation of wetland initiatives - MedWet - and he invited the countries and the institutions to make use of it.

His presentation is attached as annex 5

4.2. "Mainstreams and Environmental consideration in Catchment Management"

Mr. César Alcacer, Water Programme Officer, IUCN Mediterranean Center, reminded of the themes identified as focal working areas for the IUCN Med Office: Biodiversity conservation, islands, desertification, water and catchment, sustainable use of natural resources. In particular he highlighted the Water and Wetlands programme.

Talking of the policy instruments, he recapped the tools currently in place to address wetland protection in the Meditterranean region:
- the Med 21 (Turin 1994) and subsequent declaration on water management
- the Barcelona Convention (1996)
- the Venice Declaration (1996)
- the EU Water Framework Directive (2000) and its requirements to develop catchment management plans by 2015

He stressed that there is a need to link basin planning with wetland management and that there are tools available to do that: water adaptation frameworks, stakeholder involvement or environmental flows (IUCN). He presented the definition of environmental flows approach as "the water regime provided within a river, wetland or coastal zone to maintain ecosystems and their benefits where there are competing water uses and where flows are regulated".

In order to implement the tool, he explained that it is important to understand the basin in its context (water headways, floodplains, etc.) and to set clear objectives and scenarios (water needs of the systems, measurable indicators, holistic approach). E-flow assessments can be used for basin-scale planning and management for different timeframes. He underlined that, in that approach, the desired objective can go from a situation of minimum flow/single fixed value to one of fully adaptive management with a comprehensive provision of good ecological status incorporating restoration where feasible.

IUCN has launched a regional environmental flow programme. It has prepared 8 case studies on e-flows and wetlands in the Mediterranean region and a resource kit on wetland management. The next steps are to carry out demonstration projects in selected basins, build partnerships with utilities/user groups, and assess and promote ecosystem values. For further information, he invited the participants to visit the website.

His presentation is attached as annex 6

4.3. "Assessment of water policies in the light of principles on Integrated River Basin Management: case studies from Morocco and Tunisia"

Mr. Holger Schmid, Freshwater Officer, WWF-Mediterranean Programme, shared with the participants the results of two studies carried out in Morocco and Tunisia, in the light of principles of integrated river basin management (IRBM). He cautioned that the aim of the study was not to give a full assessment of the policy process but really stimulate a debate on how to improve the state of freshwater ecosystems.

Explaining the methodology behind the case studies, he pointed out that a) the information had been measured against EU indicators, i.e. high standards, b) the exercise reviewed a few of the cross cutting principles of IRBM, namely: participation, integration, and knowledge and c) the process assessed the quality of existing programmes, and policy and legislative responses of governments, insofar as information publicly available.

He provided examples of results against each of the different categories.

The conclusions of the study are:
- the efforts in the country do focus essentially on water provision to urban, domestic and industrial uses: good instruments are in place to that effect in place that can make a difference but one sees little public participation and the environmental aspects of wetlands and their functions are little considered.
- measures to ensure efficient use of water is quite advanced. Water pricing system is a good example
- public participation is unsatisfactory
- there is effort towards integration of policies, however environmental aspects are at the bottom of the list of priorities

The recommendations are that:
- Improve quality and availability of data about the effect of existing pressures on water resources
- improve monitoring programme for endangered ecosystems: knowledge of the state and problem is well understood but there is little monitoring of the health of the ecosystems.
- develop specific regulation for the use of agricultural wastewater
- better dam management under the consideration of ecological aspects (mitigation measures)
- improve the availability of information regarding water resources ( increase transparency)
- improve existing arrangements for public consultation
- Develop a holistic wetland policy instead of selected wetlands

His presentation is attached as annex 7

4.4 Discussion

Mr. Mohammed Raggabi, director of the Centre Marocain des Zones Humides, Morocco, asked whether, from a methodological point of view, the assessments had been carried out by national teams, with WWF undertaking a parallel verification exercise. Mr. Schmid confirmed that the results are based on publicly held information only and that a workshop was held in each of the countries to validate the data. He further informed that the report of these workshops would be available shortly.

Ms. Lamia Chamas thanked all lecturers for tackling a most important issue for the region where the water is less and less available and the issue of water shortage is very acute. She further pointed out that those studies though lack the economic side of the policies, i.e. an economic assessment of the worth of developing or not a policy. Mr. Schmid explained that WWF has not done yet an economic assessment of policies but undertook an economic assessment of wetlands - the result of which came out with a valuation of wetlands around the world at a price tag of $70 billion worldwide for wetlands. He further informed that WWF intends to do such a case study in the Mediterranean region. Mr. Kouvelis also reminded that MedWet, in the framework of Medwet 2, undertook such an assessment - published in 1995 and still available. He confirmed that MedWet intends to integrate that aspect into the new project on agriculture and water. Finally, Mr. Alcacer reported that IUCN is about to publish a book on policies values and assessments.

Ms. Lamia Chamas asked how much of the recommendations of the WWF study carried out in Tunisia and Morocco will be implemented on the ground and what the challenges are to their implementation. Mr. Schmid pointed out that the readiness of governments to follow up on the recommendations is up to the governments themselves and WWF is not in a position to address this question. On the other hand, he confessed that, though the studies helped identify the gaps, it has not looked at how to address these; it would require a further series of consultation.

Referring to the ongoing GIWA exercise, Mr. Harash Kouyoumjian, Director of the Marine Studies Center of the NCSR - national council for scientific research, Lebanon, stressed the issue of transboundary rivers, as a subject introducing a new teer of questions and concerns and he cited the example of the Mesopotamian marshes in Irak. Mr. Salathe mentioned that article 5 of the Ramsar Convention, though sometimes overlooked, obliges countries to collaborate among each others and exchange information. He also reminded the participants of the existence of the UN-ECE Convention. He further mentioned the Danube Commission (ICPDR) as an institution managing a transboundary river (13 contracting parties) and working quite well.

Referring to the e-flow approach, Ms. Lamia Mansour asked about the timeframe necessary to pilot a full adaptive management model and get out concrete information that would be useful for decision making. Mr. Alcacer informed that IUCN is currently trying to identify a ’good’ case study to start this process and that it was difficult to respond to the question at this point.

Regional Meeting report of National strategies and policies for wetlands
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