Ramsar visit to Australia and China, 2006

Ramsar visit to Australia and China, 2006

9 November 2006

Visits to an Australian Ramsar site, the Living lakes Conference, and wetlands in Hong Kong

The Port Phillip Bay Ramsar site, Australia

During the week 30 October - 3 November 2006, the Secretary General, Peter Bridgewater, visited Ramsar sites in Victoria, Australia, and Hong Kong.

Courtesy of the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, the Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment, and Melbourne Water, a visit was undertaken to the Port Phillip Bay site located near the city of Melbourne in southern Victoria, Australia. The site extends over a large area and parts of it are situated on the shoreline, intertidal zone and adjacent wetlands of western Port Phillip Bay (extending from the town of Altona to Limeburners Bay). The site includes a variety of wetland types ranging from shallow marine waters to seasonal freshwater swamps and, rather unusually, extensive sewage ponds! The sewage treatment ponds are managed by Melbourne Water in a very impressive system of filtration and sedimentation ponds, releasing good water finally to the bay. The nutrient rich waters allow for many species of waterfowl to feed and breed, including the unusual Pink-eared Duck (Malacorhynchus membranaceus).

The salt marshes in this locality are also an important habitat for the endangered orange-bellied parrot Neophema chrysogaster which feeds on Halosarcia species, confined to this region in south-central Victoria.

This well managed and interesting site shows how a use normally regarded as inimical to the environment - sewage treatment - can, if properly organised, have many environmental benefits.

The photos show some of the range of habitats of this site.

Artificial trees placed in treatment pond to provide roosting sites.

treatment ponds, leading to the waters of the bay

Sclerostegia arbuscula - a key element in coastal salt marsh

Who says salt marshes are dull? Flowering Frankenia and Disphyma species.

well ok they are a bit dull, but this is a gourmet larder for the orange bellied parrot…

The Living Lakes Conference and wetlands in Hong Kong

The 11th Living Lakes Conference was held November 1-2, 2006, in Nanchang, China, on the theme of sustainable lake management - balancing agriculture and lake protection.. The conference had a very specific focus also on China and the development of a lakes network in China, as a complement to the existing set of Living Lakes worldwide. The Secretary General gave a presentation on "Healthy lakes and wetlands means healthy people" in the session on Avian Influenza, which also included presentations from FAO, UNEP-CMS, and the Max Planck Institute. This presentation and thinking will feed into the STRP work on wetlands and human health.

After this meeting the Secretary General visited the Hong Kong Wetlands Centre and the Mai Po Ramsar site.

The wetland centre is a very impressive facility, recently opened. Inside there are many digital displays, interactive games, etc., to interest kids of all ages - as well as a series of boardwalks and tracks which bring visitors into close contact with a range of wetlands. The water for the project is derived from retaining ponds which collect storm water run-off, which is then subject to filtration and phytoremediation. The end result is an excellent educational facility, and one that is highly sustainable.

Close by is the Mai Po Ramsar site, managed for the Hong Kong government, in the main, by WWF Hong Kong. And an excellent job in both management and education is performed by this group. The site itself has a series of Gei Wai or fish ponds, which are being managed by WWF in the former ways, thus ensuring that the ecological values of the ponds are maintained and enhanced.

They also have a small educational centre which is managed by WWF, with support from the education ministry for student participation in visits and courses. This is an excellent example of a Ramsar IOP working with a party to achieve the Convention's objectives. Many more such examples could and should exist!

PB Lay (HKG) Lam(WC) in WC hide

pb Leung, lay - looking at Gei Wai

sluice from Cei Wai to tidal creek

Lay, pb, Leung and Chan - at the WWF education centre, Mai Po

Wetland centre hide

on mangrove boardwalk

in front of wetland centre.

-- Peter Bridgewater,
Secretary General