Culture and wetlands in the Mediterranean: Using cultural values for wetland restoration, the case of Tunisia.

The Chickly isletThe project “Culture in Mediterranean wetlands” implemented by the Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos (Med-INA) and funded by the MAVA Foundation, is testing the potential of using cultural values in strengthening wetland restoration and management efforts. The three selected pilot sites in different regions of the Mediterranean are the Karla Lake in Greece, the Lacarna Salt Lakes in Cyprus and the Tunis Lakes in Tunisia. MedWet is assisting the national implementation of the Tunisian site and was hence present in the last meeting of the working group set up to initiate a dialogue in order to establish an environmental and cultural Interpretation Centre at the Fort Chikly.

The Tunis Lakes in Tunisia are divided into North and South Lakes by a navigation canal built by the French in 1881, and one of their main cultural feature is the historic Fort Chikly built by the Spanish and situated on the isle of Chikly in the North Lake. The once degraded and polluted lakes have been restored with proper drainage and the abandoned and deteriorated fort has also been renovated thanks to the Spanish Cooperation and the efforts of the Tunisian Ministry of Culture and INP (Institut National du Members of the working group taking a breakPatrimoine). The fort is ideally located to serve as an interpretation centre to promote the natural and cultural values of the site but the carrying capacity has to be assessed to protect this natural sanctuary for egrets, flamingos and other birds as well as the fragile isle of Chikly and the fort within. Combining the natural environment and preserving the national monument requires an integrated approach and is hence suitable to the project.

The aforementioned working group consists of the General Directorate of Forests (DGF), the Agency of Protection and Management of Littoral Areas, (APAL), the National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia (INAT), WWF-Tunis, the Society for the Promotion of the Tunis Lake and the National Heritage Centre (INP). The MedWet coordinator, Nejib Benessaiah was present in the meeting held in April 2013 where the main issues discussed were the important task of undertaking an environmental carrying capacity study of the Lake Tunis and Chikly Islet which must be completed before decisions are taken on the logistics of the interpretation centre. Also, the working group discussed the organization and content of the Tunis Workshop on Tourism, Culture and Wetlands to be organized by Med-INA in the framework of the project and in close collaboration with the members of the working group, in the fall of 2013.