The Central Asian Flyway (CAF) covers a large continental area of Eurasia between the Arctic and Indian Oceans and the associated island chains. The Flyway comprises several important migration routes of waterbirds, most of which extend from the northernmost breeding grounds in the Russian Federation (Siberia) to the southernmost non-breeding (wintering) grounds in West and South Asia, the Maldives and the British Indian Ocean Territory. The birds on their annual migration cross the borders of several countries. Geographically the flyway region covers 30 countries of North, Central and South Asia and Trans-Caucasus.
There is an overlap between the CAF and the area of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA), which was concluded in 1995, at The Hague, the Netherlands. Sixteen out of the thirty countries encompassed by the CAF are located in the AEWA Agreement Area.
The CAF covers at least 279 populations of 182 migratory waterbird species, including 29 globally threatened and near-threatened species, which breed, migrate and winter within the region. Of those populations, over 50 per cent (145 populations) are covered by AEWA. Many waterbird populations are declining rapidly and the wetlands, grasslands and other habitats upon which they depend are seriously threatened along the CAF due to uncontrolled hunting, habitat degradation, unsustainable water management, and lack of law enforcement and conservation capacity.
CAF migration routes include the steppes and cold deserts of Central Eurasia, and much of the Himalayan chain, where unique, high-altitude migrations such as those of the Bar-headed Goose, Anser indicus, take place. Other Central Asian species for which the new CAF Action Plan should have the greatest significance are: Asiatic Dowitcher (Limnodromus semipalmatus), Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis), Indian Skimmer (Rynchops albicollis), Ibisbill (Ibidorhyncha struthersii), Brown-headed Gull (Larus brunnicephalus), Siberian Crane (Leucogeranus leucogeranus), Sociable lapwing (Vanellus gregarius), Spot-billed Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis), Relict Gull (Larus relictus), Black-winged Pratincole (Glareola nordmannii) and Caspian Plover (Charadrius asiaticus).
There is an urgent need for science-based and internationally coordinated conservation measures, ensuring the survival of species and their habitats as well as sustainable benefits to people. In order to address those needs and to identify coordinated actions to conserve those species, CMS convened three meetings of range states (Tashkent 2001, New Delhi, 2005 and Abu Dhabi, 2012). The second meeting in New Delhi (2005) broadly agreed on the content of the Central Asian Flyway Action Plan to Conserve Migratory Waterbirds and their Habitats. The Action Plan has been developed with technical support from Wetlands International and was finally adopted in January 2008 after incorporation of further technical comments received following the Meeting.
The Action Plan provides the basis for the 30 Range States to take individual and coordinated region-wide activities to conserve waterbirds and their habitats. It covers 175 species of divers, grebes, pelicans, cormorants, herons, storks, ibises, flamingos, geese, cranes, rails, sun grebes jacanas, crab plovers, oystercatchers, stilts and avocets, pratincoles, plovers, scolopacids, gulls and terns. Thirteen of the species are already listed on Appendix I of the Convention.
It contains provisions for species and habitat conservation, single species action plans and emergency measures. Priority issues for conservation of migratory waterbird and their habitats, include the lack of information on population status and trends of waterbirds, information on precise migration routes of populations, limited capacity of local agencies and communities to monitor and manage wetlands and the need to balance the needs of conservation against the needs of local people.
CMS convened a third negotiation meeting in December 2012 in Abu Dhabi in order for the CAF Range States to reach a formal decision on their preferred legal and institutional framework to support implementation of the CAF Action Plan. As a result of this meeting, CAF countries adopted a declaration, stating that the preferred institutional framework for CAF would be its incorporation into the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA). This means that AEWA would have to extend its current geographical area and include additional species in its annexes. The discussion and formal decision of the CAF countries is reflected in the Final Declaration of the meeting as well as in the meeting report.
CMS, AEWA and their governing bodies are now working together to enable the AEWA Parties to take an informed decision on the extension of the Agreement area to include the CAF region. In order to assess the implications for AEWA if CAF were to be incorporated into the Agreement, a study was initiated to provide AEWA Parties with the necessary information and advice as appropriate in order for them to take a decision in response to the request of the CAF countries. The study assessed multiple aspects including the institutional and administrative, as well as the technical, financial and legal implications for AEWA.
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