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Potential Ramsar Sites of Ethiopia - Paper

Potential Ramsar Sites of Ethiopia - Paper

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This paper by Yilma D. Abebe describes potential sites that fit into Ramsar criteria. It also discusses the implications of accepting the Ramsar Convention and becoming a signatory. It was presented at a stakeholder consultative meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
This paper by Yilma D. Abebe describes potential sites that fit into Ramsar criteria. It also discusses the implications of accepting the Ramsar Convention and becoming a signatory. It was presented at a stakeholder consultative meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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Published by: Yilma Dellelegn Abebe on Feb 14, 2011
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Potential Ramsar Sites of Ethiopia
Yilma Dellelegn Abebe
A paper presented at the National Stakeholder Consultative Workshopon Ramsar Convention and EthiopiaMarch 18-19 2004
Addis AbabaEthiopia15 March 2004
 
Potential Ramsar Sites of Ethiopia
Yilma Dellelegn AbebeEthiopian Wildlife and Natural History SocietyP. O. Box 13303Addis Ababa
1. Introduction
Ethiopia is a country that is better known for recurring droughts and extensive drylands.This notion presents the impression that the country has minimal water resources not tomention its potential of providing millions of m
3
of water to other neighbouringcountries. EPA (2003) in its recent State of the Environment Report on Ethiopia explainsthat 11 of Ethiopia's rivers flow out of the country into neighbouring countries. On thecontrary Ethiopia is rich in water resources that are exemplified by various types of wetlands ranging from alpine tarns to marshes, swamps, lacustrine and riverine forms.Ethiopia is rich in water resources and is believed to have more than 120 x 10
6
m
3
of water discharged from 12 river basins annually (EPA, 2003). It is also estimated that only9 % of this total discharge remains in the country in various water formations includinglakes, rivers, bogs, swamps, springs and marshes. Water retained in wetland formations isestimated to cover 18, 587 km
2
of land area of Ethiopia (EPA, (2003). Total coverage of wetlands comprises only 1.5% of the total land area of the country. This appears minimalin the first place but the compound effect of mismanagement is also another factor that places Ethiopia in the water stress/ water scarce zone of the region.Water like many other resources is not equally distributed in nature. This effect can also be a factor when raising issues in conservation and prioritising for utilisation. Many of these wetland sites are open with no protection status. This is an important fact with itsown pros and cons for the future of several natural areas including wetlands.With the various scenarios that wetlands face, either in their plight or proper management, the world has come up with agreements that take into consideration the protection of wetlands world over. The Convention on Wetlands of InternationalImportance or the Ramsar Convention is the only global environmental treaty that bringsnations together in the conservation of a particular ecosystem, wetlands. Being aninstrument for the protection of wetlands it has certain legal bindings that contracting parties have to consider upon accession. One of the commitments is the requirement todesignate at least one wetland site of international importance upon accession and alsomake the effort to maintain the ecological integrity of that wetland. There are of courseguidelines that assist in the selection and maintenance of integrity of wetlands.
 
Ethiopia is not a contracting party and thus has not designated a wetland of internationalimportance. But in the probable event of signing the treaty now or in the future, there isneed to premeditate conditions including preparing a country list of possible candidateRamsar sites for selection.
2. Ramsar Sites - an overview
Ramsar sites or wetland sites with special global importance are found in all contracting parties. The main impetus for coming up with a List of Important Wetlands is to "developand maintain and international network of wetlands which are important for theconservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through theecological and hydrological functions they perform" (Ramsar Bureau Convention, 1997).Some members have gone ahead and listed several sites while others still maintain thefirst one or two they committed at the time of accession. Most recent update on number of contracting parties is 138. The total number of sites designated by these countries is1,368 and the total area covered by the sites is 119,611,621 ha
. At the firstConvention meeting in Ramsar, Iran, Article 2.1 set out the fact that allcontracting parties need to commit one site for designation at the timeof signing the treaty. Furthermore, the Convention has made clearindication that the setting aside of these special wetland areas denotesthat the sites are important not only to the country or region but tohumanity as a whole. Sites are selected according to standardizedcriteria based on hydrological, limnological, ecological, zoologicaland/or botanical factors.
A country that agrees to join the Convention must designate a site to be included in theList of Wetlands of International Importance. Subsequent designation of other sites isalso possible as long as the country feels the need to set aside more. A Ramsar site thataccompanies the actual contracting procedure must also have filled out an informationsheet as supplied by the Ramsar Bureau with a map that describes its boundaries. In somecases boundary definition is difficult by the very nature of wetlands, whose edges couldincrease or decrease with seasons or years. In these kind of cases, boundaries should bedefined as precisely as possible. One solution to this kind of problem is to designate awider ecosystem that encloses the wetland e.g. the terrestrial habitats of a national park that enclose a wetland (Ramsar Convention Bureau, 1997).While designation is a prerogative of each contracting party, conservation action at sitelevel is also required. At the 4
th
meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 4), inMontrreux, Switzerland a recommendation (Recommendation 4.2) was stated that wouldassist the parties to take action at their designated sites (Ramsar Convention Bureau,1997). Accordingly, States are free to decide on the legal status or protection measures atsites, undertake conservation work with the aim of preventing changes to sites and promote wise use of wetlands by maintaining positive traditional land use practices andestablishing nature reserves where possible. One important way of carrying out the wiseuse concept is to develop management plans for all sites that have been listed as Ramsar sites or not (Ramsar Convention Bureau, 1997).

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