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Tana River delta launched as a Ramsar site
Date Published: 05 Feb, 2014
Tana River delta has been added to the list of Ramsar sites in Kenya at a ceremony that brought together conservation enthusiasts, wetlands experts and local community on Thursday (January 30, 2014) in Garsen, Tana River County.
It joins the list of other five designated Ramsar sites in Kenya namely Lake(s) Naivasha, Nakuru, Bogoria, Elementaita and Baringo.
The Tana River delta site was officially declared a Ramsar site, under the Ramsar Convention, in October 2012.
The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the Convention was signed in 1971) is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
This global recognition calls for the conservation of the Tana delta wetlands resources for sustainable development. It aims at eliminating progressive encroachment on and loss of wetlands now and in the future. It acknowledges the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands and their economic, cultural, scientific, and recreational value.
The designation of the Tana River delta as a Ramsar site will encourage partnerships that focus on watershed conservation efforts. It aims at dealing with off-site development that could threaten the biodiversity and ecosystem services provided by the site consequently increasing the area for wildlife conservation at national level.
It will also lead to increased funding for research, management and tourism. The public awareness of the site will also highlight its importance and aesthetic value, leading to an increase in tourism directly stimulating economic development of the area.
At 163,600 hectares, the delta is designated as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International (IBA) as it shelters globally threatened birds. About 5000 breeding water birds from 13 species use it as a breeding site. The delta is the second most important estuarine and deltaic ecosystem in Eastern Africa. It comprises a variety of freshwater, floodplain, estuarine and coastal habitats with extensive and diverse mangrove systems.
It’s diversity in habitats permits diverse hydrological functions and a rich biodiversity including coastal and marine prawns, shrimps, bivalves and fish, five species of threatened marine turtles and the IUCN red-listed African Elephant.
Furthermore, the Seven Forks hydro-power generation stations which generate an estimated 400 Mega-Watts of power are also located within the waters of the Tana River. The power generated in these stations contributes nearly 70 per cent to the national grid. Apart from hydropower generation, other human activities along the Tana River delta include Mangrove harvesting, cattle grazing, agriculture and fishing.
Other sites proposed for designation as Ramsar sites include the Yala swamp, Saiwa swamp and the trans-boundary Sio-Siteko wetland ecosystem.
Kenya wildlife Service (KWS) is the national focal point for the Ramsar Convention in the country and oversees the management of these sites. Over the years, KWS has been spearheading the efforts of designating all the Ramsar sites in partnership with various stakeholders such as Nature Kenya, Kenya Wetlands Biodiversity Research Team, Kenya Wetlands Forum, East African Wildlife Society, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).