Planners' block?

No plan yet for waterbirds of Central Asian Flyway

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Still a long way from safe hab delegates from 23 countries recently met in New Delhi to finalise and endorse a proposed action plan to conserve migratory waterbirds and wetlands in the Central Asian Flyway (caf). The caf boundary includes 30 countries and 274 migratory waterbird species, of which 26 are globally threatened or near threatened. The decision to initiate the action plan was taken almost four years ago, at a meeting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. But the New Delhi meet was a damp squib. After three days of deliberations, the only notable progress it achieved was some modifications in the 'wording' of the action plan. So much for spending almost a quarter of a million dollars. There was just one bright spot in the effort: the proposed Western/Central Asian Site Network for the Siberian Crane was endorsed.

Only 12 of the 23 range countries present at the meet took an official stand on whether or not they wanted the caf Waterbird Action Plan to be legally binding (11 states voted in favour). The countries' aversion to an official stand was difficult to figure, as they were well aware of the meeting's objective. Also, the 30 range countries had already worked out at the Tashkent meet the three framework options they had for developing the caf action plan: extending the African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (aewa) geographical area to include the caf area and incorporating caf action plan under aewa ( a legally binding pact) ; developing a separate framework under the Convention of Migratory Species (cms) or attaching the caf action plan to the Asian Pacific Waterbird Conservation Strategy.

The case for going the aewa way was strong: over 50 per cent of the water bird populations and countries in caf are already included in African Eurasian Flyway. In addition, aewa offers a regular budget, along with several possibilities to fund action-oriented projects within the agreement area. It has recently been affiliated with a us $12 million United Nations Environment Protection-Global Environment Facility project to support the range states within the agreement area, whether or not they are aewa parties. Central Asia will be one of its focus areas.

The future of caf action plan will now be decided at the next meeting of parties to aewa in November 2005, where the proposal to include the caf area in the aewa region will be tabled. But caf range states also have to arrive at a consensus. As the aewa parties meet only triennially, it might be three years before the action plan goes anywhere.

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