Introduction to Inland Waters

Inland water systems can be fresh or saline within continental and island boundaries. They include lakes, rivers, ponds, streams, groundwater, springs, cave waters, floodplains, as well as bogs, marshes and swamps, which are traditionally grouped as inland wetlands. Inland waters in this sense are overlapping widely but are not fully identical with wetlands in the sense of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which include near-shore marine areas.

The module is divided into eight sections:

  • Assessments: including implementation requirements regarding inventories and designation of sites, monitoring and research, impact assessment, reporting and indicators
  • Legislative measures and national policies: including legislation, policy and institutional requirements
  • Management: including conservation and sustainable use, management planning, restoration
  • Economic instruments: including incentives, market-based mechanisms, valuation, but not the provision of resources
  • Provision of resources: including the provision of financial and technical resources as well as capacity building
  • Communication, education and public awareness: including also training
  • Cooperation: including coordination across sectors, internationally and nationally
  • Cross-cutting obligations: This section covers rather generic implementation requirements that are not specific to any of the other sections but rather to all of them. The most significant requirements in this regard come from some of the CBD programmes of work and provisions on the Ramsar Strategic Plan.

Many of the implementation requirements contribute or are complimentary to others. This is where possible indicated in the commentary. Where they are obviously relevant for more than one section or activity, they have been included in all of those, but there are many cases where this is debatable and the reference will only be found in one section or activity, normally the most obvious one. Nevertheless, related sections or activities should be checked when searching for references relevant to a specific question. For the section on legislative measures and national policies, a requirement referring to both legislative measures and policy is normally included in the activity that is mentioned first, e.g. ‘Review legislation and policies…’ would appear under the activity on legislation and not under the one on policies.

Obligations are presented as either directly relevant or indirectly relevant. Directly relevant obligations are those requirements that explicitly refer to inland waters or wetlands, so for example almost all Ramsar obligations are listed here. Indirectly relevant obligations are those not specifically directed to inland waters/wetlands but nevertheless relevant for those ecosystems. For example, implementation requirements for assessments of mountain biodiversity are listed in the section on assessments as inland waters are ecosystems of mountains and a national practitioner – or someone who prepares a national report to a convention – has to take those references into account when working on inland waters.The word obligationas used throughout this module is not confined to obligations listed under the said agreements for which non-compliance would result in some form of legal sanction as defined within each agreement. The term is used rather to refer to activities that Parties to each agreement are expected to carry out in order to fulfil the objectives of each agreement.

Where appropriate, commentary has been provided to offer further explanation and to highlight: i) synergy that may occur between obligations; ii) obligations that may need to be addressed together; and iii) to highlight elements of a CBD programme of work or guideline that is most relevant to a particular activity.

Relevant articles of multilateral agreements are presented first under activities/components, followed by any provisions of the Ramsar Strategic Plan and then the obligations from decisions/ resolutions/ recommendations of the governing bodies of the various global and regional conventions. The obligations from the Ramsar Convention come first (as this convention is particularly important for this module on inland waters), followed by the other biodiversity-related conventions in alphabetical order (CBD, CITES, CMS, World Heritage Convention), UNCCD and UNFCCC, and finally the regional agreements. It is intended to add obligations from other relevant conventions at a later stage (e.g. ESPOO Convention, UN Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Use of International Watercourses). The requirements from a given convention’s governing body appear in chronological order, with the most recent references first.

Of the World Heritage Convention, currently the articles of the Convention text and the requirements resulting from the 26th, 27th and 28th session as well as those from the 6th and 7th extraordinary sessions of the World Heritage Committee are included; references from earlier sessions will be included at a later stage. Also, the Operational Guidelines of the Convention have been reviewed.

Regarding the Ramsar Strategic Plan, the operational objectives have been reviewed, but not the activities. The same is true for the work programmes of the CBD of which operational targets or objectives or similar provisions but not the activities have been included.

Regional parts for Europe and African have also been developed for this module. Regional obligations have been embedded within the global modules sections and activities. The sort function allows for each activity to display only the global obligations, regional obligations or both global and regional obligations.

Regional treaties drawn on to develop the European regional part of this module are:

  • European Union Birds Directive
  • European Union Habitats Directive
  • European Union Water Directive
  • Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention)
  • Memorandum of Understanding concerning Conservation Measures for the Siberian Crane
  • Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy

Regional treaties reviewed to develop the African regional part are currently from East Africa and are:

  • African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA)
  • Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation on Environmental Management (MOU of CEM)
  • New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)
  • Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)
  • Convention on Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (CLVFO)
  • Convention for the Protection, Management of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the East African Region (CPMDMC of EA)
  • Protocol Concerning Protected Areas and Wild Fauna and Flora in the Eastern African region (PPAWFEA)
  • Protocol on Shared Watercourse Systems in the Southern African Development Community (SADC Protocol on Shared Water systems)

The treaties included in the regional parts are representative for each region and are by no means complete . It is recognised that there are many more regional treaties, which contain obligations for IAS, and these will be incorporated at a later stage.

To have a better understanding of the structure and elements of the module, an overview has also been provided for your ease of navigation. The navigation bar on the left can be used to go directly to a certain section within the module.