|▲ Dongbaekdongsan is the crux of the Jocheon-eup bid Photo courtesy Cat Lever
On July 3, after a two-year assessment process, the Ministry of Environment selected Jocheon-eup as a Ramsar Wetland City Accreditation candidate. Other Korean candidates for the international conservation designation are Yongneup High Moor in Gangwon Province and Upo Wetland in South Gyeongsang Province.
Jeju now has until October to submit its application to the Ramsar Independent Advisory Committee who will review the applications and then announce the newly accredited cities at the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties in the United Arab Emirates in October 2018.
A Jeju City official said the candidacy is the result of the hard work of villagers, environmental specialists and city officials: “We will be able to increase the site’s value as a global eco-tourism destination if selected as a Ramsar Wetland City," he told Yonhap News.
Distinct from existing Ramsar Sites, Wetland City Accreditation promotes regional economic development through sustainable wetland use in addition to conservation and wise use of wetlands.
Article 3 of Resolution XII.10 of the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Wetlands states that the accreditation will provide “positive branding opportunities for cities that demonstrate strong and positive relationships with wetlands.”
Seonheul-ri, Jocheon-eup, already boasts the Meonmulkkak wetland, designated in 2011 as part of Dongbaekdongsan, one of Korea’s 22 Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites). Jeju has four other Ramsar Sites: Mulyeongari Oreum, 1100 Altitude Wetland, Muljangori Oreum and Sumeunmulbaengdui.
The Wetland City Accreditation would boost eco-tourism as well as business opportunities for locals. If accredited, local businesses will be able to use the prestigious Ramsar brand with financial and logistical support from central government for environmentally friendly goods.
In northeast Jeju Island, Dongbaekdongsan is the crux of the Jocheon-eup bid as a precious groundwater site within Jeju’s gotjawal forests. Its international importance for biodiversity and geology is evident in its 2014 designation as a Jeju Geopark Site.
A Wetland Center was constructed there in 2015 and, as well as being a cultural and educational facility, a small shop sells local produce such as wild mushrooms and homemade jams. These are the type of items that are likely to benefit from Ramsar branding should Jeju win the accreditation.
Jeju officials have been very active in pushing for the Wetland City Accreditation and representatives were at the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Wetlands in Uruguay in 2015 where Resolution XII.10 set out a roadmap for the accreditation scheme.
The seeds for that were sown back in Korea in 2008 at the 10th Meeting in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, where Resolution X.27 pressed for urgent action on urbanization and wetland conservation.
Urbanization is a major threat to wetlands globally and Article 20 of Resolution XII.10 spells out the key benefits of ensuring wetlands contribute to local communities as population pressures increase.
“(i) delivering the wise use of wetlands and avoiding any further degradation or loss of wetlands as a result of urban development or management, and (ii) promoting the contribution that wetlands make to the social and environmental sustainability of a Wetland City.”
If Ramsar’s six criteria are met, the Wetland City Accreditation is valid for six years, after which it will be up for reassessment. The criteria are:
a. It has one or more Ramsar Sites or other significant wetlands fully or partly situated in its territory or in its close vicinity, which provide(s) a range of ecosystems services to the city;
b. It has adopted measures for conservation of wetlands and their services including biodiversity and hydrological integrity;
c. It has implemented wetland restoration and/or management measures;
d. It considers the challenges and opportunities of integrated spatial/land-use planning for wetlands under its jurisdiction;
e. It has delivered locally adapted information to raise public awareness about the values of wetlands, and encouraged the wise use of wetlands by stakeholders through, for example, establishing wetland education/information centers;
f. It has established a local Wetland City of the Ramsar Convention committee with appropriate knowledge and experience on wetlands (... ).
In related news, Jeju provincial officials traveled to the IUCN headquarters in Switzerland earlier this month to discuss holding the 2018 World Leaders’ Conservation Forum on the island in 2018. Jeju held the inaugural Forum on the island back in 2015.
In cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and IUCN, the Forum is a prestigious conference on environmental conservation and is expected to be attended by the high-ranking officials from international organizations such as UNESCO, Global Geoparks, Biosphere Reserves and Ramsar.