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Ramsar Wetlands Convention

The Convention was adopted in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971 and it came into force in 1975. At the end of 1998 there were 113 Contracting Parties (states), including the UK.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat is the only environmental treaty dealing with a particular ecosystem. The Convention promoted six basic concepts:-

  1. A definition of wetlands as areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters.
  2. Wetlands have fundamental ecological functions, as regulators of hydrological systems and as habitats supporting a rich biodiversity.
  3. Wetlands constitute a resource of great economic, cultural, scientific and recreational value that should be maintained.
  4. Progressive encroachment on, and loss of, wetlands constitutes a serious and sometimes irreparable environmental damage that must be avoided.
  5. Wetlands should be restored and rehabilitated, whenever possible.
  6. Wetlands should be conserved by ensuring their sustainable utilisation.

The Convention established a number of protection approaches. These include the duty to promote the conservation of wetlands and waterfowl, particularly by establishing nature reserves, and a requirement for designation and recognition of internationally important sites. In the UK designation, management and administration are carried out by the DEFRA and English Nature. There are approximately thirty designated Ramsar sites in many coastal counties.

Each Party makes an annual contribution to the Bureau which provides provisions for monitoring, database establishment and updating, funding of projects, educational work and publications, as well as support for the headquarters, based in Gland, Switzerland.

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