|Lower Okavango to be declared Ramsar Site|
|Written by Absalom Shigwedha|
|Wednesday, 08 August 2012 20:01|
THE Lower Okavango River will be proclaimed a wetland of international importance (Ramsar Site), says a senior official in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET).Kenneth Uiseb, the Deputy Director in the Directorate of Resource Management in the MET and Namibia’s Focal Point for the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, said last week that preparations are afoot to proclaim the Lower Okavango River as a Ramsar Site.
“We only have to finalise paper work,” he said. The Lower Okavango River forms part the Bwabwata National Park. Uiseb said relevant Ministries, such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice, have already been consulted on the move. The Lower Okavango River possesses high bio-diversity including many bird species and different types of vegetation.
Uiseb believes the site has great potential for tourism, such as bird-watching and wildlife-viewing, which could provide a revenue stream to local communities and have a positive effect on the national economy.
Uiseb recently returned from Bucharest, Romania, where he attended the 11th conference of Parties to the Ramsar Convention. One of the issues discussed at the conference is the idea of moving the Secretariat of the Convention from the Headquarters of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Gland, Switzerland to be hosted rather by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). IUCN is a global conservation organisation. Parties to the Ramsar Convention feel that if the Secretariat is hosted by UNEP, it will give the convention more visibility and it may be accorded more political support.
The Ramsar conference is usually attended by experts in wetlands management, whereas climate change and biodiversity conferences typically have high-level delegations.
Held from 6-13 July under the theme ‘Wetlands: home and destination’.the Bucharest conference elected South Africa as a full member of the Ramsar Standing Committee.
Namibia was elected to the committee as an alternate member. The Ramsar Standing committee is an important body of the convention, which makes sure that decisions are implemented.
Romania currently chairs the Ramsar Standing committee. Conferences of Parties to the Ramsar Convention are held after every three years. CoP11 of the Ramsar Convention will be held in Punt del est in Uruguay in 2015.
Wetlands help to prevent erosion, improve water quality, stabilise climate and recharge aquifers. Namibia has designated four wetlands for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. These are the Etosha Pan, Walvis Bay Lagoon, Sandwich Harbour and the Orange River (which Namibia shares with South Africa).
Currently, the Ramsar Convention has 162 Contracting Parties and there are 2 040 Ramsar Sites in the world, covering an area of 193 411 417 hectares. The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance is mainly known as the Ramsar Convention because it was negotiated in the city of Ramsar (located on the shores of the Caspian Sea) in Iran in 1975.