Saturday, March 7, 2015

Letter to RAMSAR regarding Site #1000

Dear Friends at Ramsar,

I write to you today because I am quite concerned about the fate of Ramsar's number 1,000 site in the Gulf of Fonseca in Honduras. I have just returned from helping implement a training workshop in the San Lorenzo area where we had intended to rehabilitate an abandoned, illicitly sited shrimp farm located within the Ramsar site. It had been abandoned for over a decade, and mangroves had already started to return to the site, so we had hoped to help the natural restoration along via our Community-Based Ecological Mangrove Restoration (CBEMR) approach. 

We had given prior notice to the government of Honduras that we wished to use this site in our training workshop, asking for permission to restore an obviously disused shrimp farm, abandoned and non-productive. We listed the site location and mentioned it was part of the Ramsar site. We also gave the dates of our workshop, and thus gave plenty of advance notice of our plans.

When we arrived there at the site to look it over, we were stunned to see the bulldozer at work restoring instead the former two shrimp ponds, removing the mangrove vegetation once again. This was like a cold slap in the face of our stated intentions, but more so, it was a slap in the face of Ramsar by the government of Honduras, once again totally ignoring its stated commitment to the area as a Rasmsar site.

When we questioned the government officials at SERNA and ICF, we were wrongly told that the site had no mangroves present, but we have photos documenting that the site's mangroves were being bulldozed while we visited the site last week. The government's claims are thus refuted by our personal visit and the photos we took while there.
Needless to say, we had to find another site that was suitable to apply the CBEMR method, but luckily our local guides suggested a suitable site on Isle de Pajarros in the Gulf, which we did use to demonstrate mangrove restoration techniques utilizing the CBEMR approach.

What I am asking in this letter is can Ramsar take a more active role in stopping these kinds of open violations against Ramsar designated sites, such as what we witnessed firsthand near San Lorenzo? If not, shouldn't Ramsar de-list such a designated site because it is not in accord with stated Ramsar Convention  intentions? This de-listing itself would at least show such governments that the Ramsar status must live up to its intended purpose.

Please do let me know if Ramsar will effectively intervene in this case. I attach the letter I wrote to government officials in Honduras and two photos of the site in question that show the current destruction of a segment of mangrove wetland.

For the Mangroves,

Alfredo Quarto,
Mangrove Action Project (MAP)

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