On the occasion of World Wetlands Day 2019, and under the auspices of the Governor of Bizerte, Mohamed Gouider, the GEMWet project partners, in collaboration with the General Directorate of Forests (DGF) of Tunisia and the Coastal Protection and Planning Agency (APAL), celebrated the national launch of the GEMWet project ” Conservation and sustainable development of coastal wetlands with high ecological value: the case of Ghar el Melh, Tunisia” on 13 February 2019 at the Maison de Culture in Ghar El Melh(Bizerte).
It should be recalled that the GEMWet project is an initiative funded by the MAVA Foundation for Nature and supported by a consortium of partners with expertise in this field, namely the Global Water Partnership-Mediterranean (GWP-Med), BirdLife Europe, the Tour du Valat, the National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia (INAT), the Priority Actions Programme Regional Activity Centre (PAP/RAC), the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation (IUCN-Med), WWF North Africa and the Association “Les Amis des Oiseaux ”(AAO/ BirdLifein Tunisia). The project benefits from the partnership and support of the DGF and the APAL. In addition, a cooperation agreement has just been signed between the eight project partners (represented by WWF NA) and APAL. This agreement should provide a framework for cooperation and facilitate collaboration within the project.
In addition to the GEMWet project partners, this event, attended by about 50 people, brought together project stakeholders to discuss the situation of wetlands in the region, the challenges they face, and the solutions to protect them.
Mr. Gouider, in his intervention, called on all parties tocontinue working on the promotion of Ghar El Melh, thedevelopment of tourism, the sustainable use of its natural resources, its archaeological sites and ecological museum, and its coastal strip. In addition, he stressed the need to protect these key elements by adopting an approach based on the integrated management of available resources by deterring offenders and combating the rapid pace of urbanization. Mr. Gouider also called on all parties involved in environmental development and protection projects around the city of Ghar El Melh to consolidate their efforts in order to achieve a concerted vision for the development of the area, which will be articulated and detailed in a reference document to be adopted by all regional and local stakeholders and will guide their activities to preserve and enhance the resources and assets of this city and the area more broadly.
The Director General of Forestry, Mr Salem Triqui, stressed the importance of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the commitment of the Tunisian State to implementing this convention on the ground, which has been continuing since its signature in 1971. Mr. Triqui added that Tunisia currently has 41 Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites) and that the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries is working to designate two new wetlands in the governorates of Medenine and Bizerte. He also highlighted the human interventions that threaten these wetlands, in particular pollution from household waste, backfilling from construction waste, drying of adjacent land, uncontrolled constructions, and water pollution from neighbouring agricultural and industrial activities. He called for accelerated action to protect the vegetative cover in wetland catchments, to reduce pollution,and to treat wastewater from nearby factories and homes, as well as to preserve those ecosystems from all kinds ofviolations.
Mr Faouzi Maamouri, Director of WWF North Africa, for his part, expressed concern about the situation in the city of GharEl Melh and its lagoon, calling for an immediate cessation ofthe attacks that the region of Sidi Ali el Makk is facing,particularly over the past two decades. He also urged rapid action to preserve the heritage and characteristics of the region in order to ensure a sustainable future for the younger generations. In addition, and towards the end of the day, an agreement was signed between the DGF and WWF North Africa to strengthen their collaboration in the field of wetland conservation.
The President of AAO/BirdLife Tunisia, Mr Hedi Aïssa, renewed his organization’s commitment to contribute to the conservation and valorisation of Ghar El Melh, which is an exceptional site by its cultural and natural attraction. He encouraged the competent authorities and civil society tofurther communicate about the Wetland City Accreditation awarded by the Ramsar Convention and share this experience with other Tunisian cities. Mr. Aissa also highlighted the pressures threatening biodiversity in Tunisia, which are beyond appearances and constantly increasing, requiring particular attention from the authorities and the support of civil society.
During the event, Ms Hela Guidara, from the DGF and the Focal Point of the Ramsar Convention and the MedWet initiative in Tunisia, presented the progress of the National Wetland Strategy. Ms Leila Abdeladhim, from APAL, presented the national strategy for integrated coastal zone management in Tunisia.
Finally, the GEMWet project partners presented the objectives of the project, which is intended to contribute to the economic, socio-cultural and ecological development of the Ghar El Melh area through the establishment of an integrated management system of available resources and good management practices. This will lead to the vision of building a participatory and integrated local governance system to preserve the precious lagoon of Ghar el Melh.
– Preparatory meeting of the GEMWET project for the conservation of Ghar el Melh lagoon (Tunisia)
– Ghar El Melh (Tunisia) first Arab and North African “Wetland City”
Learn more about the project here: http://bit.ly/Gemwet_En
Imen Rais, Freshwater Project Officer
WWF North Africa