Cultural values for wetland restoration

Strengthening wetlands conservation efforts in the Mediterranean

Cultural values for wetland restoration

Project description

The project aimed to strengthen restoration efforts in three emblematic yet degraded wetlands in the South, East and North Mediterranean respectively, by focusing on their cultural values and by applying and refining the relevant parts of the Ramsar guidance on culture and wetlands. In each site, local partners were included and contributed to project activities which were adapted according to the needs of the specific wetland.

  • Lake Karla (Central Greece): Until it was destroyed in the 1960s, Lake Karla was one of Greece’s most important wetlands; the lake’s rich biodiversity and vibrant fishing culture was lost when its waters were then drained for agricultural land. Even its restoration didn’t deliver the hoped-for results for the wetland. To help improve the lake’s situation in this project MedINA took an integrated approach to its rehabilitation, utilising a combination of activities that included conducting an inventory of the area’s natural and cultural heritage, promoting this knowledge widely through a walking guide and by incorporating the cultural aspects of the region in the final proposals of the international Sustainable InteGral Management Approaches for Water (SIGMA) project. With the goal of raising awareness of this fragile ecosystem and supporting sustainable tourism in the region, all activities were undertaken with the support and co-operation of the area’s local authorities, resident experts and Lake Karla’s wetland management body.
  •  Larnaka Salt Lakes (Cyprus): The Larnaka Salt Lakes were once an important ancient port and a significant Mediterranean salina during the Middle Ages, while on the shore of the wetland stands the Hala Sultan Tekke, one of the world’s holiest Muslim sites. The project aimed to make use of the Larnaka marina and the international airport, which was unfortunately built in the wetland, to encourage visitors to experience the rich cultural and natural heritage of this Ramsar and Natura 2000 site where pink flamingos and thousands of migratory birds spend part of each year, thereby creating a stronger motive for the conservation of both. Among the many ways in which the project stimulated visitor interest were exhibitions, walking tours and educational activities, as well as creating the incentive for the construction of a major visitor centre. Working together with local partners such as the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, the Ministry of the Environment and Larnaka Municipality, MedINA co-ordinated activities aimed at preserving this important and historic wetland.
  • Lake Tunis (Tunisia): Once an important sanctuary for many bird species, Lake Tunis has been devastated in recent decades, its rich natural and cultural heritage lost or severely degraded because of urban pressures and intense pollution. While pollution has now been controlled within the framework of a greater urban regeneration project, the wetland remains under considerable threat, particularly as the city of Tunis is built on its shores and the site is a major tourist destination. While plans had been in place to use the Fort of Chikly, a restored national heritage monument, as an ecological and cultural interpretation centre, they were unfortunately postponed. Nevertheless, MedINA prepared a study of the carrying capacity of the area around the natural reserve of the isle of Chikly in collaboration with the Polytechnic University of Valencia in an attempt to evaluate the number of visitors the site can sustainably host, acting as a guideline for the management of tourists throughout the lagoon. Furthermore, an international workshop – ‘Tourism, Culture and Wetlands’ – was held in Tunis on 12-13 February, 2014.

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