International significance of natural sites
By Tatiana Nekhaeva
Specialists from the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Ministry and the National Academy of Sciences are applying to the Ramsar Bureau to gain status for these sites as wetlands of international importance. The Deputy Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Minister, Anatoly Lis, believes the move will help attract more tourists.
Currently, nine Belarusian sites enjoy Ramsar status: Sporovsky, Srednaya Pripyat, Zvanets, Omalnskie Bolota (Marshes), Osveysky, Yelnya, Kotra and Prostyr reserves, and Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve. Belarus and Ukraine have established a cross-border Ramsar area while Sporovsky Reserve was the first territory in Belarus to be included in the list of wetlands of international importance, celebrating its 20th birthday this year.
The Ramsar Convention (the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially Waterfowl Habitats) was signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, aiming to preserve and ensure the reasonable use of all wetlands. To date, 160 countries have become signatories, with Belarus joining in 1999.
As Mr. Lis notes, loss of wetlands could exacerbate global climate change. In Belarus, these territories occupy large areas, so the country is keen to ensure their proper preservation.