Decision : CONF 205 V.51-56
Ichkeul National Park (Tunisia)
V.51 The Bureau was informed that the total rainfall during the years 1999 and 2000 has been below average and insufficient to trigger the closing of the sluice gates at Oued Tinja, resulting in sea water flowing into the Lake. No release of water from other sources has been made in an effective manner during the years 2000 and 2001. Salinity of the Lake water has increased during this period, the composition of water birds has become dominated by salt tolerant species such as shelducks and shovelers.
V.52 At its twenty-third session, the Bureau noted that the rehabilitation of Ichkeul had to be based on a reasonable time frame since: "Inter-linked indicators such as salinity, availability of preferred species of food plants for birds and the number of wintering birds arriving at Ichkeul could fluctuate significantly, based on annual variations in rainfall and evapo-transpiration which affect water levels in the Lake" (quoted from the Rapporteur’s Report of the twenty-third session of the Bureau, 5-10 July 1999). At that time, the Bureau had noted that plans for the provision of fresh water to the Lake would become operational by 2001. The Bureau noted that the Sidi Barrak Dam has been built and is now linked to the Tunisian water grid.
V.53 A high-level meeting was held in 2000 with the participation of the Minister of Environment and the Secretary of State for Agriculture in charge of water issues to discuss the situation at Ichkeul. The meeting had formally recognised the ecological need for providing the Lake with adequate freshwater. A GEF project has approved the first stage for preparing the management plans for three of Tunisia’s national parks, one of which is Ichkeul. In the work for elaborating a management plan for Ichkeul, the GEF consultants have informed the State Party that unless adequate volumes of fresh water are provided for the Lake, GEF does not consider it feasible to conserve the wetland biodiversity values of the Park. The consultants have therefore asked the Tunisian authorities, inter alia, to clarify urgently whether additional water can be provided.
V.54 The Delegate of Tunisia informed the Bureau that an Interdepartmental Executive Committee, with the participation of concerned ministries such as planning, agriculture, tourism etc., will be established to co-ordinate actions needed for the conservation of Ichkeul. In addition, a high-level multi-disciplinary scientific council will provide support to the Executive Committee on follow up on the implementation of all recommendations concerning the provision of adequate freshwater to the Ichkeul Lake. He confirmed that the construction of the Sidi Barak Dam has been completed and will serve the role of an ecological stabiliser of the Ichkeul Lake National Park. The Delegate observed that the Lake needs about 280 million cubic metres of water in total annually and any shortfalls in the future caused by low rainfall/high evapo-transpiration rates will be compensated by the waters from the Sidi Barak Dam. He wished that the Bureau and the Committee provide adequate time for determining the efforts of the State Party to rehabilitate Ichkeul and support the extension and strengthening of the scientific monitoring programme that has been established.
V.55 The Delegate of Canada stressed the need for the Centre and IUCN to work with the State Party to establish benchmarks and indicators for the Committee’s future monitoring of the state of conservation of Ichkeul.
V.56 The Bureau expressed its concerns over the deterioration in the ecology of the Lake during 1999-2000 due to lower than average rainfall. The Bureau invited the State Party to expand and strengthen the scientific monitoring programme for the site and ensure that sufficient amounts of freshwater are released, as and when needed, from the Sidi Barak Dam and other sources, in order to restore, preserve and maintain the integrity of the Ichkeul National Park. The Bureau recommended that the State Party consults with the Centre and IUCN, concerned national authorities, as well as Ramsar, GEF and suitable international and regional partners to establish a set of benchmarks and a suitable timeframe to guide the Committee’s future monitoring of the state of conservation of Ichkeul. The Bureau invited the Centre, IUCN and the State Party to work together to prepare a progress report on benchmarks and related timetable for monitoring of Ichkeul to the consideration at the forthcoming session of the Committee in Finland in December 2001.