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The Ramsar Convention

Updated: Feb 22, 2022

The Ramsar Convention

Ramsar Convention Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat, 1971 (Ramsar Convention)

The Ramsar Convention was the first Convention on the protection of wildlife, aimed at global participation convened at that level solely for the protection of habitat. Under this Convention, parties have to resort to interpretative recommendations. It permits sustainable wise use of sites recorded on a list maintained by its Bureau. It did not forbid or regulate taking of species for any purpose.

The first Ramsar Conventipn was held in Cagliari in 1980. wherein detailed criteria for listing of sițes were adopted and recommended to the parties. This convention while not defining the term 'wise use" of wetlands, Environmental Law 155 ecological characteristics of a wetland. recommended that the said term involves maintenance of ecological character of wetlands as a basis not only for conservation but also 1oor sustainable development. The Regina Conference held in 1987, defined the term 'wise use' of wetlands to mean their sustainable utilization for the benefit of human kind in a why compatible with the maintenance of the natural properties of the ecosystem. For the purpose of fulfilling the requiřement of Art. 3 of the Ramsar Convention, namely that the requirement of parties to supply information on the said wise use, to the Bureau, the Regina Conference also established a working group on the criteria and wise use and defined sustainable utilization as human use of wetland so that it may yield the greatest continuous benefit not only to present generations but also to maintaining its potential for meeting the needs and aspirations of the future generations. This Convention was amended by the Protocol of 1982.This Convention adopted an intergovernmental treaty made on 2.2.1971 at Ramsar, City of Iran.

Any State which is a member of the United Nations may join the Convention and its membership is also open. A country can also join the Convention if it is a member of one of the United Nations Specialised Agencies or of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or is a Party to the Statute of the International Court oi Justice. The Convention has divided the world into 7 regions, namely. Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Neotropics (South and Central America and the Caribbean Area), North America, Oceania and Western Europe.

Ramsar Convention- Salient Features

Ramsar Convention was held on 2.2.1971 and has been amended by the Protocol of 3.12.1982 and the Amendments of 28.5.1984. The contracting parties to this Convention by recognizing the independence of man and his environment and considering the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands, recognizing the interdependence of Man and his environment; the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands as regulators of water regimes and as habitats supporting a characteristic flora and fauna, especially waterfowl; and having been convinced that wetlands constitute a resource of great economic, cultural, scientific, and recreational value, the loss of which would be irreparable; desiring to stem the progressive encroachment on and loss of wetlands now and in the future: recognizing that. waterfowl in their seasonal migrations may transcend frontiers and so should be regarded as an international resource; being confident that the conservation of wetlands and their flora and fauna can be ensured by combining far-sighted national policies with co-ordinated international action; have agreed as follows:-

Meaning of the Wet:Lands,etc:

Wet lands are the areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether 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 prescribed mtrs., similarly the water fowls are birds ecologically dependeht on wetlands as provided'under Art.1 of the Convention.

Rësponsibilities of contracting parties

1. Contracting parties to designate wetlands and enlist the same

As provided under Art. 2 of the Convention each contracting party shall designate suitable wetlands within its territory for inclusion in the List of Wetlands of International Importance, That list is maintained by the bureau established under Art. 8. The boundaries of the wetland shall be described and delimited on a map and may incorporate riparian and coastal zones adjacent to the wetlands, and islands or bodies of marine water deeper than six metres at low tide lying within the wetlands, especially where these, have importance as waterfowl habitat.

Wetlands should be selected for the List on account of their international significance in terms of ecology, botany, zoology, limnology or hydrology. In the first instance wetlands of international importance to waterfowl at any seaspn should be included. .

The inclusion of a wetland in the List does not prejudice the exclusive sovereign rights of the Contracting Party in whose territory the wetland is situated.

Each Contracting Party shall designate at least one wetland to be included in the List when signing this Convention or when depositing its instrument of ratification or accession, as provided in Article 9.

Any Contracting Party shall have the right to add to the List further wetlands situated within its territory, to extend the boundaries of those wetlands already included by it in the List, or, because of its urgent national interests, to delete or restrict the boundaries of wetlands already included by it in the List and shall, at the earliest possible time, inform the organization or government responsible for the continuing bureau duties specified in Article 8 of any such changes.

Each Contracting Party shall consider its international responsibilities for the conservation, management and wise use of migratory stocks of waterfowl, both when designating entries for the List and when exercising its right to change entries in the List relating to wetlands within its territory.

2. Conservation of the wetlands

As provided under Art.3 the Contracting Parties shall formulate Party shall arrange to be informed at the earliest possible time if As provided in Art. 4, each Contracting Party shall promote the and implement their planning so as to promote the conservation of there is any change in the ecological character of any enlisted wetland in its territory or it is likely to be changed as a result of conservation of wetlands and waterfowl by establishing nature the wetlands and as far as possible their wise use. A Contracting technological developments, pollution or other human interference. reserves on wetlands, whether they are included in the List or not, and provide adequately for their wardening. Where a Contracting Party in its urgent national interest, deletes or restricts the boundaries of a wetland included in the List, it should as far as possible combensate for any loss of wetland resources, and in particular it should create additional nature reserves for waterfowl and for the'protection, either in the same area or elsewhere, of an adequate portion of the original habitat.

Contracting parties to encourage research

3. The Contracting Parties shall encourage research and the exchange of data and publications regarding wetlands and their flora and fauna.

Contracting parties to endeavor for interest in waterfowl populations

4. The Contracting Parties shall endeavor through management to increase waterfowl populations on appropriate wetlands.

5. Conference of contracting parties

As provided under Article 6, there shall be established a Conference of the Contracting Parties to review and promote the implementation of this Convention. The Bureau referred to in Article 8, paragraph 1, shall convene ordinary meetings of the Conference of the Contracting Parties at intervals of not more than three years, unless the Conference decides otherwise, and extraordinary meetings at the written requests of at least one-third of the Contracting Parties. Each ordinary meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties shall determine the time and venue df the next ordinary meeting.

The Conference of the Contracting Parties shall be competent:

(i) to discuss the implementation of this Convention;

(ii) to discuss additions to and changes in the List;

(iii) to consider information regarding changes in the ecological character of wetlands included in the List provided in accordance with paragraph 2 of Article 3:

(iv) to make general or specific recommendations to the Contracting Parties regarding the conservation, management and wise use of wetlands and their flora and fauna;

(v) to request relevant international bodies to prepare reports and statistics on matters which are essentially international in character affecting wetlands;

(vi) to adopt other recommendations, or resolutions, to promote the functioning of this Convention,

6. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

As provided under Art. Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources shall perform the continuing bureau duties under the Convention until such time as another organization or government is appointed by a majority of two-thirds of all Contracting Parties. 8 the International Union for The continuing bureau duties shall be, inter alia as follows: to assist in the convening and organizing of Conferences specified in Article 6;

(i) to maintain the List of Wetlands of International! Importance

(ii) and to be informed by the Contracting Parties of any additions, extensions, deletions or restrictions concerning wetlands included in the List provided in accordance with paragraph.5 of Art. 2; to be informed by the Contracting Parties of any changes in the

(iii) ecological character of wetlands included in the List provided in accordance with paragraph 2 of Article 3;

(iv). in the character of wetlands included therein, to all Contracting Parties and to arrange for these matters to be discussed at the next Conference; to forward notification of any alterations to the List, or changes to make known to the Contracting Party concerned, the

(v) recommendations of the Conferences in respect of such alterations to the List or of changes in the character of wetlands included therein.

Duration of Convention

As provided under Art. 11 of this Convention,--

(1) This Convention shall continue in force for an indefinite period.

(2) Any Contracting Party may denounce this Convention after a period of five years from the date on which it entered into force for that party • giving written notice thereof to the Depositary. Denunciation shall ke effect four months after the day on which notice thereof is received by the Depositary.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Negotiated through the 1960s by countries and non-governmental organizations that were concerned at the increasing loss and degradation of wetland habitat for migratory waterbirds, the treaty was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975. It is the only global environmental treaty that deals with a particular ecosystem, and the Convention’s member countries cover all geographic regions of the planet.

​Ramsar Convention

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance called the Ramsar Convention. ​waterbirds, the treaty was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975.

The Ramsar mission

The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.

The Convention uses a broad definition of the types of wetlands covered in its mission, including lakes and rivers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands and peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, near-shore marine areas, mangroves, and coral reefs, and human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs, and salt pans.

The Wise Use concept

At the center of the Ramsar philosophy is the “wise use” concept. The wise use of wetlands is defined as “the maintenance of their ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development”. “Wise use” therefore has at its heart the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and their resources, for the benefit of humankind.

Ramsar commitments

The Ramsar Contracting Parties, or the Member States, have committed themselves to implement the “three pillars” of the Convention: to designate suitable wetlands for the List of Wetlands of International Importance (“Ramsar List”) and ensure their effective management; to work towards the wise use of all their wetlands through national land-use planning, appropriate policies, and legislation, management actions, and public education; and to cooperate internationally concerning transboundary wetlands, shared wetland systems, shared species, and development projects that may affect wetlands.


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