The Ramsar Wetland Conservation Award 2002

The 2002 Ramsar Wetland Conservation Awards will be presented to an Australian wine producer involved in conservation, an Indian government agency working to conserve the largest lagoon on the east coast of India, and a consortium of NGOs in Central Europe for their work in the Morava-Dyje Floodplains, it has been announced.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, signed in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty, which provides the framework for national action and international co-operation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. The Award, which is presented every three years, was established in 1996 by Ramsar to recognise and honour individuals, organisations, and government agencies that have made a significant contribution to wetland conservation and sustainable use in any part of the world. The Ramsar Award is complemented by the Evian Special Prize, consisting of US$10,000 for each Award winner, donated by the Danone Group (France), as part of a programme of support to the Ramsar Convention.

The Chilika Development Authority (CDA) received the Ramsar Award for its impressive work and outstanding achievements in restoring the Chilika Lake, a Ramsar Site since 1981. The CDA, recognising the important need to get local people involved in conservation work and to benefit from it, has managed to increase the biodiversity of the Lake as well as dramatically increasing fish catches for the locals.

The second Award winner, Banrock Station Wine & Wetland Centre, has been chosen for its innovative approach to supporting the sustainable use of wetland resources. The link between wine production and wetland conservation may appear obscure to most people. Banrock centre allocates a percentage of the revenue generated by the sale of Banrock Station Wine to wetland conservation activities in Australia and abroad. Banrock management have also undertaken ten years of imaginative rehabilitation and management practices at their own complex of wetlands in the floodplain of the River Murray, in co-operation with Wetland Care Australia.

The third winner is the NGO Trinational Initiative for the Morava-Dyje Floodplains which consists of Daphne from the Slovak Republic, Distelverein from Austria, Veronica from the Czech Republic and the WWF International-Danube Carpathian Programme. These four organisations are being rewarded for the work they have been carrying out for many years at the national and international level, to ensure sustainable use and conservation of the natural and cultural heritage of the floodplains of the Morava (March) and Dyje (Thaya) rivers.

The Morava-Dyje riverine landscape is one of the last regions in Europe where traditional land use has secured a rich biodiversity, and today it is becoming a model area for the reconciliation of man and nature. The four organisations have developed and implemented activities to restore degraded habitats, to use sustainably the resources of the land – notably through the use of traditional and extensive farming practices – and to inform and sensitise the local populations.

In addition to the three Ramsar Awards for 2002, a Recognition of Excellence has been conferred upon two people whose distinguished service has significantly furthered the cause of wetland conservation and wise use.

Dr Monique Coulet from France is being recognised both for her scientific research and for her commitment to making practical use of the knowledge acquired in the field. She has worked tirelessly for the long-term conservation of particular wetland areas, especially the Loire river.

Dr Max Finlayson from Australia is being recognized for his contributions both to the progress of wetland science and to the work of the Ramsar Convention. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative (MedWet) and has worked closely with Wetlands International, serving on its Board of Directors and presently as its newly-elected President.

The Awards, together with the Evian Special Prize and the Recognitions of Excellence will be presented to the winners during the opening ceremony of the next Conference of the 132 Ramsar member countries on 18 November 2002, in Valencia, Spain.

Story by Amelie Knapp

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