Report / Press release Workshop Armenia’s Wetlands: Values, Threats and Ways for Action (with Special Emphasis on Khor Virap Marsh Ramsar Site)


On 5th October 2015 in the premises of «Khosrov Forest» State Reserve» SNCO, Vedi, Ararat Region the Workshop Armenia’s Wetlands: Values, Threats and Ways for Action (with Special Emphasis on Khor Virap Marsh Ramsar Site) took place. The workshop was organized to share the outcomes of the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, from 1 to 9 June 2015 under the theme «Wetlands for our Future». Participants from the Ministry of Nature Protection, the Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar), representatives of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, educational institutions, WWF Armenian Branch, leading environmental NGOs, including Society for Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL), and the community of Pokr Vedi put emphasis on progress made, challenges overcome and the way ahead with the implementation of the Ramsar Convention at international, national, as well as at site levels.

The meeting was opened by the Deputy Minister Mr. Khachik Hakobyan who welcomed participants and emphasized that it is intended to be a forum of discussion and exchange of experience regarding how to best make use of and improve the ecosystem services provided by wetlands.

Mr. Karen Jenderedjian, the Ramsar National Focal Point in his presentation Current State of Armenia’s Wetlands introduced Armenian Ramsar Sites: Lake Sevan, Lake Arpi and Khor Virap Ramsar, the great values of Armenian wetlands, highlighted the treats faced and the vital importance to rehabilitate the ecological and economic values of wetlands.

Mr. Tobias Salathe, the Senior Advisor for Europe, Ramsar Secretariat, in his presentation Wetland Wise Use for Sustainable Development introduced to participants the role of the Ramsar Convention and the Global Strategy for Wetlands 2016-2024. Mr. Salathe proposed the following «Ramsar» opportunities for Armenia: the link «water - wetlands - energy - agriculture > people», the Ramsar Site national network development, including cooperation among Ramsar Site managers, focusing on issues such as management planning of Ramsar Sites (COP12 Resolution XII.15), integrating the National Wetlands Policy into national biodiversity and water management policies, and structured cooperation among national focal points for different environmental conventions.

Miss Tala Moukaddem from the SPNL, told about national progress in wetland and bird protection in Lebanon and Hima revival of Anjar – Kfar Zabad Wetland project. Traditional Arabian «Hima» is a community-based approach to sustainably manage natural and human resources that merges between modern science with the values of the traditional Hima embedded in heritage. It stresses the values & culture embedded in the traditional Hima (equity, traditional knowledge, underprivileged groups). Hima Anjar was announced in 2005, it constitutes of wetlands, agricultural/forest lands, and forms part of the Anti-Lebanon Mountain range. This area has a variety of important globally threatened species such as Syrian Serin bird, turtles, River Otter, and swamp cats; in addition to its distinctive flora, Anjar includes important archaeological sites, most notably Anjar Ruins classified as a UNESCO World heritage site. The Anjar population 2,400 inhabitants (3,500 in the summer), almost entirely Armenians, play very active role in «Hima» activities.

Ms. Susanna Hakobyan, Ramsar the CEPA (Communication, Education, Participation and Awareness) Programme National Focal Point described in details ecological, economic, cultural, scientific, recreational, archaeological and religious values of Khor Virap Marsh Ramsar Site and State Sanctuary followed by Mr. Jenderedjian who stressed on serious threats faced by the marsh and the ways to overcome. Later on participants visited Khor Virap State Sanctuary. During the field visit Khor Virap Marsh restoration plan was proposed which focuses on rehabilitation of 160 ha of excellent habitat diversity for waterfowl: alternation of emergent vegetation with open water areas with and without submerged vegetation. Expected results of such activities are substantial increase of the number and diversity of waterfowl, increased quantity of irrigation water for Poqr Vedi community, prevention/mitigation of floods downstream and possible contamination from upstream.

Participants agreed that the restoration of Khor Virap Marsh seems to be important and realistic but needs additional studies of hydrological regime of the area and possible hydro-engineering solutions. Participants agreed also that closer cooperation with the partners from Lebanon also is important. As the next step could be organization of study tours / exchange visits between the managers and stakeholders of Khor Virap Marsh in Armenia and Anjar – Kfar Zabad Wetlands in Lebanon.

In conclusion Mr. Khachik Hakobyan expressed confidence that the outcomes of the Workshop will influence the way in which we will manage our wetlands during the coming years.