Hope for Abijatta Shalla lakes national park as team develops an interim management plan and TEEB study in a bid to save it

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Wetlands Internationals’ Climate resilient flyway project team on 29thof August held a stakeholder’s inception workshop to develop a   management plan and to undertake The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity (TEEB) study that was proposed to improve the condition of AbijattaShalla lakes national park which serves as a main destination for migratory birds coming from different part of the world. The one-day workshop which was held in Ziway, Ethiopia gave a chance to the participant to understand the importance of effectively managing and utilizing the park resources for the benefit of people and nature.

Cattle grazing around Lake Abijatta

Ethiopian Wild Life Conservation Authority (EWCA) Deputy Director General Ato Solomon hailed the partnership saying that the development of the management plan will enable the country to save a unique landscape and biodiversity of Ethiopian Central Rift Valley to salvage the threatening state of the basin caused by unsustainable use of water. “Abijata-Shalla Lakes National Park is under threat due to human related activities such as illegal settlement, illegal sand mining, charcoal production and expansion of agricultural and grazing land by communities. Abijata lake is also shrinking due to unsustainable abstraction of water in the upstream Ziway catchment and as a result of this the fish population and bird diversity have declined at an alarming rate. As a result of this developing the management plan through stakeholder process will improve the ownership for the park while encouraging the park staff and EWCA to double their effort towards conserving its biodiversity”.

They team also forwarded their inputs for management plan process and emphasized on the importance of stakeholder’s involvement and community participation. Kasim Dube a representative of the community in support of the proposal to develop a management plan urged the team to further engage and discuss with community at large especially on how to tackle illegal actives at the park. “Last year this park was attacked and we saved it. We have to focus in stopping illegal activities in the park. I suggest also if you plan to discuss with wider community instead of discussing with community representatives.” Tufa Deraro (Abageda a resident of Arsinagele highlighted the need to involve the community living around in advocating for effective use of the resources at the park.

There are more than 60,000 peoples and 300,000 cattle living in the park. There has to be a discussion with wider community living in and around the park. The community knows the use of forest and wildlife and other resources. There has to be a mechanism to make the community part of the solution. They know how much they suffer from water shortage, biodiversity loss and erosion. We have to think on how to pass on these resources to next generation”. The team also promised to consult and maintain key stakeholder’s such as media and owner of the business operating in the basin involvement in the process. “I was expecting business firms here and they are very important and would be better if you invited them” said Dr. Mekbeb Eshetu from  EWCA. “There are 69 water pumps installed along Bulbula River for irrigation. All tributary rivers are drying out. Recently, we conducted an inventory on investments established in Woreda. They all have documents and evidences but Soda Ash doesn’t have. I personally get in to conflict with the owner. We have to discuss with Sher and Castel Companies on how to mitigate possible impacts on water bodies. I am ready to mobilize the community. Please come to cooperate and we will fight together to protect our environment.” Said Jemal Gemeda from Adamitulu Jidokombolcha Woreda administration.

Participants listen in on a session

Alongside the development of the management plan, the team, led by Hugo and Augustin lead consultants from Netherlands discussed the Economics of the ecosystem and biodiversity study that will be carried out to identify available ecosystem services, their value and estimate what will happen if the current scenario continues. A Recent publication on land use change shows that, there is a reduction of water body and wood land. If the current scenario continues, Lake Abijatta will completely dry up by 2030.

Climate resilient flyway project is one of wetland international projects focused on central rift valley of Ethiopia especially Ziway-Shalla sub basin. Wetlands International is working with Ethiopian Wild Life Conservation Authority (EWCA) to restrain current situation in Abajatta Shalla lakes nationalpark. To bridge the gap between the community, the park and local administration, Wetland international is trying to bring all stakeholders on board for discussion to look for possible solutions for challenges facing the park.