Projects in Central America
National Strategy for Conservation and Sustainable Development of Wetlands in Costa Rica
Volume 1, No. 1

Starting Date: April 1995
Anticipated End Date: February 1998
Coordinator: Rocío Córdoba
1. Geographic Area
The project is located in Costa Rica, where wetlands make up approximately 4% of national territory. The twenty wetlands identified possess samples of the most common ecological units: herbaceous swamp, mangrove, flood forest, palm forest and lakes/ponds. Total mangrove area in the country is estimated at some 30,000 ha, along with 1,460 km of coastline (1,248 km on the Pacific side and 212 km on the Caribbean coast.)

Joint efforts by the Ministry of Environment and Energy (Ministerio del Ambiente y Energía, MINAE), IUCN and nongovernmental organizations in Costa Rica have led to the identification of wetlands with international importance and their inclusion in the Ramsar database. These include:

  • Palo Verde National Park
  • Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
  • Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge

2. Thematic Area
Development Objective:
Establish a national wetland conservation and management strategy, as the foundation for clearly defining their role and management within the context of Costa Rica's development

Specific Objectives:

  • Mobilize the public opinion and concern necessary for keeping wetlands from being degraded and for achieving wise management of their resources
  • Establish the appropriate instruments (scientific, socioeconomic, legal and administrative) for sound planning on wetlands use and management
  • Strengthen and solidify the organizations responsible for wetlands management and control in Costa Rica
  • Promote participation by government and private sectors and civil society in the preparation of local or sub-regional strategies for wetlands-based sustainable development

The central problem has been identified as "the loss and degradation of these ecosystems due to the absence of effective conservation and management of their resources."

The main causes of the problem are:

  • Lack of awareness regarding the benefits provided by wetlands
  • Absence of integrated and sustainable management of wetlands resources
  • Absence of integrated planning

To achieve strategy objectives, past and present activities include the following:

  • An appraisal and an inventory have been made of the country's principal wetland areas
  • Incorporation of personnel from the Conservation Areas in the Strategy process, through visits to the field and their participation in various consultative workshops
  • Compilation of legal information on wetlands, as well as the preparation of various documents
  • Training
Target group:
Due to the character of the national strategy, the project is directed at a broad range of groups:

  • Government institutions involved in conservation and management of wetlands and their neighboring zones
  • Human populations that live in wetlands or make use of the goods and services they generate
  • Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) involved in the conservation and development of Costa Rican wetlands and neighboring zones
  • Legislators in charge of implementing laws on the management of these ecosystems and associated resources
  • The people of Costa Rica
  • Countries in the region

Some of the finished products/outcomes thus far are:

  • Workshop reports
  • Manual on legal aspects of wetlands management in Costa Rica
  • Map of Costa Rican wetlands and a database for these ecosystems
  • Database of specialists and institutions related to wetlands and coastal zones in Costa Rica
  • Database on the appraisal and inventory process carried out for the major wetlands
  • Formation of an inter-institutional group of specialists that periodically collaborates on a volunteer basis with respect to the search for and strengthening of wetlands conservation and management
  • The proposal, "Training of managers and decision makers in conservation and management of wetlands"
  • Initial incorporation of Conservation Area personnel in the Strategy process

Activities are also planned with respect to legal aspects, training and sub-regional strategies in order to facilitate sustainable wetlands management in the country.

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