ALGERIA: Djorf Ettorba dam proposed for Ramsar list of wetlands

January 31st2022 in Béchar, a wilaya (region) located in the south-west of Algeria, the technical staff of Forest Conservation have launched an appeal to the Ramsar Committee. They are asking for the registration of the Djorf Ettorba dam site (60 km south-west of the wilaya) on the Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance. Framed since February 2, 1971 by the Ramsar Convention, a Ramsar site confers a status that aims to stop the degradation or disappearance of a wetland, recognizing its ecological function and its economic, cultural, scientific and recreational value.

Built between 1965 and 1968 and commissioned in 1973, the Djorf Ettorba dam, 37 meters high, is the fourth largest dam in Algeria, forming a reservoir with a capacity of 365 million m3. It is therefore an artificial wetland, with a vegetation of about 4,000 hectares, made up of various plant species, including Tamarix. According to a study conducted by the Bechar Forest Authority, there are nearly 43 species of rare birds and animals including the golden jackal, fennec fox, desert monitor lizard, hungry fox, desert gerbil, whiptail (a saurian), the Atlas of Goundi, in addition to marine mammals such as the rare common otter, aquatic turtle and several other species of freshwater fish.

The reasons for the call for classification

Local forest conservation officials consider it necessary to classify the Djorf Ettorba dam as a wetland, given its geographical location in a semi-desert region, known as the transit zone for migratory birds that use the west coast of Africa through the Strait of Gibraltar.

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This appeal is launched on the eve of World Wetlands Day, celebrated every February 2 of the year, to commemorate the signing of the Convention on Wetlands. But the celebration comes in a critical context. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), wetlands are among the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. About 85% of wetlands present in 1700 were lost by 2000. Many of these have been drained to make way for development, agriculture or other uses.

Boris Ngounou

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