MedWetCoast Project for conservation of Wetlands and Coastal Ecosystems in the Mediterranean Region MedWetCoast Project for conservation of Wetlands and Coastal Ecosystems in the Mediterranean Region
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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

7. Session 3: Status of the national wetland policy.strategy in the Mediterranean countries

7.1 Introduction

Mr. Tomas explained that this next session is about the countries who have not yet elaborated a strategy. He spelled the outline of the countries’ presentation:
- the institutional and admin context
- the legal framework of the wetland plan
- the strategic framework of the wetland plan: water strategy, etc.
- the structures, institutions and organisations involved in the preparation.
- the mechanisms for consultation and participation
- the strengths and weaknesses of the current situation
- the steps forward

His presentation is attached as annex 19

7.2 National wetland strategy/policy in Algeria: status

Mr. Ammar Boumezbeur, DGF, Ministry of Agriculture, Algeria, presented the process carried out up to now in Algeria. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Eaux & Forets, a few objectives have been identified, some of which include:
1. inventory of wetland sites: an atlas of some 254 wetland sites has been prepared covering some 2,8 millions hectares and 8 Ramsar sites;
2. capacity building of site managers: since 1989, a number of training programmes have been delivered, from specific ornithology training sessions to management planning;
3. environmental education: he particularly stressed the effort of the government in terms of communication (documentary, articles, )
4. international valorization of wetlands. One of the objective is to, by the next Ramsar COP, designate 60 wetlands covering more than 3 Million hectares.
5. cooperation with international partners
6. national wetlands policy and action plan

In particular, he cited that, in 1997, under a GEF/UNDP project, a national strategy for the sustainable use of biological diversity was prepared. He spelled out the main elements of this strategy and emphasized that one of the innovative elements was its recommendation that a dedicated agency be created to manage the environment. He summarized that the implementation of the strategy has been estimated at some 3,7 billion Euro.

Finally, he pointed out that a new law was promulgated in July 2003: law on environment and sustainable development. The law on coastal zone management was adopted in August 2003 with the creation of a ’cellule littoral’/coastal center.

His presentation is attached as annex 20

7.3 National wetland strategy/policy in Egypt: status

Mr. Esam El Badry, MedWetCoast project manager, Egypt explained that some two months ago, they started preparing a first outline of a national strategy and action plan for Egypt. He stressed a few elements:
- importance of the definition
- classification of the wetlands: he mentioned that weeks were needed to address just this point. As a result, 14 categories were identified.

A first attempt at the goal and objectives was presented, with 6 goals and 10 programme areas. The work could be initiated thanks to the fact that there already exists an effective biodiversity national plan, which was used as a basis for developing the first draft of this strategy. The proposed action plan refers to the establishment of the national council for wetlands, meeting every 6 months, and responsible for the implementation of the action plan.

He mentioned that, so far, two sites only are designated as Ramsar sites, also designated as protected areas so that funds can be allocated from the Government.

Finally, he pointed out that one of the problems is the great number of laws in Egypt that have been enacted under the different ministries. It is sometimes necessary to seek higher approval (prime minister’s decree) to enforce wetlands policies. One of the actions suggested is to consolidate national law for wetlands.

In terms of work programme, he confirmed that a committee of 10 persons will shortly be formed and visit the sites. A 1-2 day workshop with stakeholders will be organized to provide inputs and further comments. Thereafter, a 100-person meeting will be scheduled in general assembly to finalize the stragegy. He expects the process to complete by end of 2004.

His presentation is attached as annex 21

7.4 National wetland strategy/policy in Tunisia: status

Mr. Habib Ben Moussa, MedWetCoast project manager, Tunisia, recalled that Tunisia carried out an inventory of the wetlands in 2001. Wetlands are characterized into 6 categories, to which one could add peatlands and dams. He confirmed that the state of knowledge is quite abundant, looking at the bibliography available. As examples of the importance of the Tunisian sites in terms of biodiversity, he pointed out that about 25,000 flamingos come to Tunisia (or about 1/3 of the total med population); he also pointed out that the dams do mobilize some 85% of the water resources available for drinking waters and irrigation.

With regards to the legal status, Tunisia has ratified the Ramsar Convention in 1981 and has a national Ramsar committee. With regards to land tenure, the wetlands do belong to the public domain whether relative to the maritime or freshwater, except for oasis, which are private properties.

With regards to the management of wetlands, a number of legal instruments do regulate the management of wetlands, in particular the code forestier, the relevant laws of application of the Berne and Biodiversity convention and the law 91 on environmental protection.

Talking about national strategies relative to wetlands, he mentioned:
- Agenda 21, which includes reference to the protection of wetlands.
- The ’strategie nationale de gestion des resources en eau’/national water resource management strategy with the principle that the water resource has as much a social and economic value as as an ecological function. For this he quoted the example of Ichkeul and the release of dam water to the lake which allowed the reappearing of particular species.
- National biological strategy;
- Integrated national coastal zone strategy

In terms of key actions undertaken, a few can be noted:
- A programme of management of the sensitive areas
- A programme with reference to the national parcs which covers 26 parcs, including Ichkeul
- A national sanitation programme (6 Sebkhas).

He concluded by stressing that NGOs are involved in a number of ways in the policy and implementation actions.

His presentation is attached as annex 22

7.5 National wetland strategy/policy in Albania: status

Ms. Violeta Zuna, MedWetCoast project manager, Albania, introduced her presentation by presenting information on the types and nature of wetlands areas in Albania: a total of 270 sites and 514 artificial sites. She highlighted the importance of the sites for wintering migratory birds ( 70 different waterfowl bird species with about 180,000 individuals) and the fact that at least six of the lagoons are considered as IBA (Important Bird Area), or as potential Ramsar sites, with more than 20,000 wintering birds each. To date only two sites have the Ramsar status.

She also stressed that transboundary lakes like Shkodra Lake, Ohri Lake and Prespa Lake are important exchange sites of flora and fauna with the neighboring countries in the Balkan.

She outlined the conventions to which Albania is a party, elaborated relevant documents and legal frame as well as relevant ongoing projects.

She highlighted the problems faced :
- Lack of legal status: only 6% of the territory is actually under protected area status;
- Weak institutions and lack of institutional and financial instruments
- Rapid development of urban and demographic changes often uncontrolled
- Insufficient integration of environment policies and instruments into economic development

She underscored the key threats to and causes of the degradation of wetlands from agricultural activities to soil degradation, industrial activities with high risk of pollution, or use of the wetlands as dumping grounds.

A strategy has not been prepared yet but within the framework of the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) a number of elements and actions are recorded for wetlands protection, including the recommendation to design a strategy and action plan for the sustainable management of wetlands.

Her presentation is attached as annex 23

7.6 National wetland strategy/policy in Lebanon: status

Ms. Lina Yamout informed that Lebanon has no strategy yet, though is party to the convention since 1999 She described the 4 wetlands sites currently under Ramsar status - these include Aamicq, a private land holding and one of the MWC project site for which a management plan is currently being prepared, and Tyr Coast Nature Reserve declared as a nature reserve, supervised by a local committee, also a MWC project site for which a management plan is currently being.

She cited a number of potential Ramsar sites: 3 potential inland freshwater wetlands, 1 artificial lake, 17 perennial streams, 23 seasonal streams with a combined length of 730km, 250km of coastal strip with several habitats for marine turtles, karst formation (450 caves and abyss systems), and salinas.

Justifying the need for a national wetland strategy in Lebanon, she underscored the diversity of species in the country, with 255 bird species, and the high threats they face together with the other values and functions of the wetlands. A strategy is needed in order to maintain and sustain an effective management of the sites.

She concluded by proposing next steps, to include:
- Starting the national strategy process
- Setting up a national wetlands committee
- Prepare a wetlands inventory

Her presentation is attached as annex 24

Mr. Boumezbeur pointed out that Lebanon already has a strategy for biodiversity and asked whether the strategy does include reference to wetlands management. He referred to the case of Algeria where there is a strategy for Biodiversity but which does not sufficiently address the questions/issues of wetland protection. Ms. Yamout explained that Lebanon indeed has developed a biodiversity strategy but that it is not yet really implemented. Ms. Chamas added that the biodiversity strategy does make reference to wetlands but possibly not sufficiently. Surely, synergy will have to be made to ensure coherence between the two strategies. She added that one of the action included in the biodiversity strategy is an inventory of wetlands.

Ms. Chamas further reminded of the mechanism adopted by the Lebanese ministry to manage protected areas with the establishment of Government Appointed Committees (GAC) which include local stakeholders and local authorities and therefore link well with the local context and concerns.

7.7 National wetland strategy/policy in Morocco: status

Mr Raggabi, director of the national center for wetlands that was recently created recalled that the ramsar convention was ratified by Morocco in 1991 and proposed 4 Ramsar sites. Last year 20 new sites were proposed exemplifying the commitment of Morocco to the protection of wetlands. He stressed that the existence of a national biodiversity strategy provides a solid basis already for moving on with the preparation of a wetlands strategy, on the basis of the Ramsar guidelines.

Insofar as the institutional context is concerned, he confirmed that the two key ministries, namely the Ministry of Eaux & Forets and the Ministry of Environment are closely connected in particular through the biodiversity action plan. In addition to the strategy for biodiversity, he explained that there is also a strategy for protected areas - a law is currently being prepared classifying the protected areas into 5 categories, with the hope that wetlands will be introduced in one of the classification, as recommended by IUCN. He mentioned that there is also a strategy for water resources which can contribute to the strategy for wetlands.

Morocco has a national Ramsar committee (comprising delegates from the Ministry of E&F, Environment, maritime, and water utilities, the NGO SPANAS, and the ’institut scientifique le Grepon). The committee prepares the Ramsar reports to the COP which assess the progress made and the constraints. There is also the biodiversity committee and the ’comite superieur pour l’environnement’.

In conclusion, he highlighted strong and weak points:
- strong concertation between the two ministries
- Ramsar committee already in place But also:
- the complex lines of responsibilities: the water issues are addressed by several different ministries and jurisdiction.
- the complex land tenure system.

Mr. Falaki added some points on the synergy between the two ministries. The Environment Ministry/Secretariat d’Etat a l’Environnement has prepared and developed individual strategies for the various ecosystems. He also highlighted a number of objectives of the Ministry and some of the actions undertaken by the ministry and relevant to the protection of wetlands.

Finally, he pointed out and commented that noone has talked about indicators yet for the monitoring for wetlands. As example, he reported that Morocco, for the biodiversity national strategy, has developed a series of indicators of pressure, state and response.

The Moroccan presentation is attached as annex 25

7.8 National wetland strategy/policy in the Palestine Authority: status

Mr. Mustaha presented excuses for not having prepared a proper presentation. He recalled the historical background to development of policies in Palestine, which include:
- In 1998, the Palestine Authority prepared 2 regional plans, one for the Gaza strip and one in Ouzbeck.
- In 2000, a Palestine environmental strategy was issued
- In 2001, a draft national strategy for biodiversity was prepared but not yet approved
- In 2001, a decree was issued for the protection of Wadi Gaza issued.
- In 2003, a management plan for Wadi Gaza was prepared.

With regards to the elaboration of a national wetland strategy, the Palestine Authority plans to first amend the national strategy for environment in 2004 which should be completed by 2005. This strategy define 15 elements and 9 environmental themes, nature protection being on the top of the list.

Regarding Wadi Gaza, the MedWetCoast project site, he informed that the ministerial decree did face conflicts from the local communities, mostly because part of the area is privately owned. As a result, the area proposed as protected area had to be reduced and some agreement was reached with the local municipality.

The approach used for planning in Palestine is a mix of top down and bottom up approach. Regarding the institutional structure, 3 bodies are involved in strategy/policy preparation:
1) a steering group with all concerned ministries and environmental institutions - it provides the political support
2) a resource group which consists of ministries, technical staff, NGOs and academics - it provides the information base, and
3) a planning/technical group - these are the professionals who write the strategies and policies.

Looking at the weaknesses, he highlighted the problems with:
- land ownership, as most of the land is privately owned,
- lack of awareness of people and politicians, and
- limited financial resources Finally he noted that, as for other MWC countries, in the case of Palestine, one can not concentrate on the protection areas and leave the development aside. In order to protect the natural areas, one has to find jobs or create jobs for the local communities living in or around these areas.

7.9 Discussion

Ms. Mansour, referring to the objectives of the meeting and GEF guidance, cautioned against developing complex documents. She further underscored the importance of identifying which specific areas can be strengthened with this strategic planning process. It is also important to review the sectoral policies and making sure that, as per the specificities of each country, biodiversity is clearly taken care in each of these. She also reminded that this is a GEF biodiversity project and that GEF expects impacts upon the protection of biodiversity. She further mentioned the of the involvement of the private sector, an issue raised many times in this meeting, and called for key institutions to be mobilized, such as the water agencies and equipment ministries which are key players in this area.

She reminded that the strategy needs to lead to clear deliverable and that, for this purpose, it is necessary to be able to measure it. She further reminded the participants that, during the working groups, it would be necessary to narrow down the priorities, identify the timing which would be needed to deliver the strategy and specify how to engage into the process. She stressed that this project has deliverables to show and that the government counterparts have agreed to deliver some specific commitments with regards to sustaining wetlands and that some concrete results need to be recorded by the end of this project.

Ms. Lamia Chamas further underscored that we have to start thinking as business persons, in particular including a business plan in the management plans in order to best link up with the private and investment sector. She reminded that one has to come up with a product that can be of interest to private partners and one has to sell the strategies and plans. She affirmed that one can not compete by just saying ’protect, protect’. One has to start selling the fact that environmental protection is a money making business as well.

Regional Meeting report of National strategies and policies for wetlands
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