On the 25th April the Wetlands National Centre of Ghar el Melh was inaugurated in the framework of the project “Wetlands in Tunisia: a Habitat for man and nature”. The new centre is located around the Ghar El Melh lagoon, one of Tunisia’s forty Ramsar wetlands- inside the lagoon Fort (Bordj El Bhira)- a beautiful, renovated historical monument that dates back to the 17th century.
The creation of this national wetlands centre was supervised by the General Directorate of Forests and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF / Tunis Office) but to make its creation possible MedWet and a number of other partners like the MAVA Foundation, the Polytechnic University of Valencia, the Ramsar Convention and the National Heritage Institute (INP) representing the Ministry of Culture in Tunisia were involved. MedWet in particular co-financed the eco-museum concept and installations.
The Centre is made up of several stations which present the wetlands in Tunisia including the ones that are Ramsar designated, the social and economic activities of the people and the relationship between these activities and wetlands. It also has a Hall of pirates which traces the history of piracy in the region, a flying station for the identification of waterbirds and other activities. The main objective of the centre is to raise awareness to the public and to educate them on the importance of wetlands and their conservation.
The inauguration ceremony with over sixty participants was attended by local associations and the civil society, students of primary schools, journalists, national and local authorities and international invitees. Mr Nejib Benessaiah, MedWet coordinator, made a brief intervention where he recognised the hard work of the partners and the importance of the outcome. He also acknowledged the significance of the international, national and regional collaboration to complete this project and its innovative character in bringing together Tunisia’s public authorities on environment and culture. An important point was raised by Mr Habib Abid, Director of Conservation in DGF, who noted that the centre was built with the work of local technicians and artisans and features local products, something that contributed to its better acceptance by the local communities, authorities and associations. Ms Maria Jose Vinals, member of MedWet (Spanish Wetland Centre/CEHUM) and professor at the University of Valencia noted the good cooperation of the Tunisian team and their commitment for implementing the concept proposed by the University of Valencia . We hope this prototype wetland centre will not only be successful in attracting and educating visitors but will also inspire the creation of others all across North Africa.