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 B N H S

Declaration on the Conservation of the Central Asian Flyway from the International Conference on Wetlands and Migratory Waterbirds of the Asian Flyways, November 18–22, 2019

2019-12-20

Background

The International Conference on Wetlands and Migratory Waterbirds of the Asian Flyways was organised from 18th to 22nd November, 2019, in Lonavala, Maharashtra, India, by Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), jointly with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and BirdLife International. It was supported by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Govt of India), Government of Maharashtra, and the Mangrove and Marine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation. The conference was inaugurated by Ms Patricia Zurita, CEO, Birdlife International.

This conference provided a platform for 280 delegates from 18 countries, including scientists, conservationists, state forest officials, decision makers, corporate sector, defence services, and academia to share information and review the current status of the wetlands and migratory waterbirds occurring along the Central Asian Flyway (CAF) and neighbouring African-Eurasian Flyway and East Asian-Australasian Flyway. It aimed to determine and prioritize conservation actions that could be implemented to address the problems facing wetland habitats and migratory waterbirds.

A meeting of Central Asian Flyway Range States was organized in parallel on 19th and 20th November, 2019, by the MoEF&CC along with the BNHS. This meeting was inaugurated by Shri Babul Supriyo, Hon. Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India.

Grateful to the leadership that the Indian Government, civil society, and academia have shown, but also concerned about the rapid decline in many migratory bird populations, and likely causes of these declines including illegal hunting, trade, poisoning, energy and linear infrastructure development, loss/degradation of habitats, competing use of habitat, changing climate, lack of adequate water allocation to maintain wetland character, and predation by stray dogs, the conference agreed upon the following priorities:

Collaboration

1.Encourage more collaboration between countries and organizations along the Central Asian Flyway, including between the Arctic and India.

Research and monitoring on status, trends and ecology

2.Identify important stopover, breeding, and non-breeding sites across the flyway and strengthen the long-term monitoring programmes linked to the International/Asian Waterbird Census.

3.Update estimates of waterbird population size and trends to rationalize and support designation and management of Ramsar sites and other wetlands in the CAF.

4.Develop a Critical Site Network Tool for waterbird populations in the CAF, to be led by Wetlands International and BirdLife International as an open-access web portal to provide a strong basis for identifying ecological networks and emphasizing their connectivity aspects, while also providing insights into climate change vulnerability and informing conservation decision-making at site, national, and international levels.

5.Address knowledge gaps in migratory strategies and habitat usage of key species through coordinated bird ringing, colour marking, and satellite/GSM/geo-locator/tracking.

6.Establish a common platform for coordination and collation of waterbird colour marking schemes in the CAF. Colour marking scheme protocols need to be established in consultation with adjacent flyway schemes, to avoid overlaps and ensure consistency.

7.Encourage researchers, civil society including birdwatchers, and local communities to collect and analyse bird migration and population data, to help identify conservation issues.

8.Promote studies of migratory Raptors and Landbirds in the CAF to determine the population trends and their causes.

9.Undertake further research on climate change in the Arctic, including its influence on the monsoon, and associated impacts on migratory birds and their habitats along the flyways.

10.Enhance research on the migratory strategies of Indian Skimmer through satellite telemetry across its range, especially in India and Bangladesh.

Addressing specific threats

11.Develop a Bird Sensitivity Map for renewable energy and transmission lines along the Central Asian Flyway, led by the BirdLife Partnership.

12.Encourage membership of CAF Range States to the Convention on the Migratory Species (CMS) Energy Task Force, so as to support the mitigation of impacts from energy infrastructure on migratory birds.

13.Create a database on aircraft bird strikes and develop measures to reduce bird strikes.

14.Promote regular disease surveillance in waterbirds at key CAF sites and sharing of information among range states.

15.Undertake a review of the scale, scope, and motivations of illegal hunting, taking, and local and trans-boundary trade of migratory birds in the CAF, in line with the established BirdLife International methodology, including the identification of key illegal poaching and trade locations. Develop mitigation mechanisms to curb these activities, including development of identification manuals, wildlife law enforcement training workshops, and options for alternative livelihoods for traditional bird trapping communities/tribes.

16.With a view to regulating the use of nets used for illegal bird hunting, support the proposed decision of CMS COP13 to undertake a global situation analysis on production, sale, and regulation of use of mist nets, and other sorts of nets used for bird trapping.

Site and habitat conservation

17.Ensure Ramsar designation and improved management of wetlands of international importance along the flyways, using data from Wetlands International, BirdLife International Partnership and others. Encourage the enactment of national policies in the CAF to seek to prevent further wetland reclamation (land claim) and to encourage wetland ecosystem restoration, within and beyond protected areas.

18.Encourage the development of integrated intertidal and coastal zone management plans. Priority should be given to protection (as Protected Areas and Community Reserves), conservation management, and restoration of coastal wetland ecosystems, including tidal flats and associated wetlands including “working coastal wetlands” such as shellfisheries, aquaculture, and salt pans of importance as waterbird feeding, high tide roosting and nesting sites. Such conservation action should include the delivery of ecosystem services such as blue carbon, climate change adaptation, and disaster risk reduction.

19.Preparation of policy on demarcation and protection of non-vegetated mudflats to be taken up on priority, for conservation of feeding grounds of migratory species.

20.Strengthen implementation of regulation on sand mining in riverine habitats that provide critical nesting habitats for endangered migratory species such as Indian Skimmer and Black-bellied Tern.

21.Encourage birdwatching and other ecotourism as a sustainable alternative livelihood for local communities to safeguard migratory waterbirds and their habitats. 

Action planning and institutional frameworks

22.Ascertain the institutional framework for delivery of migratory bird and habitat conservation in the Central Asian Flyway, building on CMS and AEWA, with leadership from the Government of India, in fulfilment of their pledge made at CMS COP12.

23.Encourage CAF Range States to develop and implement national action plans for migratory birds and their habitats, using the example of India’s CAF National Action Plan.

India

24.Reconsider the Indian ‘Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017’ to align with the Ramsar Convention definition of wetlands, and accordingly develop and implement a national wetland policy which addresses the fragmentation of governance of wetlands and involves relevant stakeholders.

25.Encourage cooperation between India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, to explore possibilities to develop surveys targeting Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative (AMBI) priority species, such as the Curlew Sandpiper, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, and Lesser White-fronted Goose, in priority sites in the Indian subcontinent, and to facilitate the exchange of experts and build capacity.