KODOMO Ramsar:
International Wetlands Exchange
in Niigata

August 20th-24th, 2008
Niigata city, Niigata Prefecture

KODOMO Ramsar: International Wetlands Exchange in Niigata was held in Niigata City, Niigata Prefecture, from the 20th to the 24th of August this year. Children from Kushiro-shitsugen, Kutcharo-ko, Miyajima-numa, Oze, Yatsu-higata, Fujimae-higata, Biwa-ko, Nakaumi, Shinji-ko, and Manko joined the group of local children, from Sakata, Fukushimagata, Kurinokigawa, Hyo-ko, and Tsuusengawa, adding up to a total of 15 wetlands in Japan. International participants from Yellow River and Dashanbao in China, Upo Wetland and Sihwa Lake in South Korea, Bolon Lake in Russia, and Krabi Estuary in Thailand also participated, adding up to 60 children. 9 international exchange high school students studying in Japan also participated, adding up to a crowd of 69 total participants for the "international" conference.

On the first day, we had a welcome party, followed by a lecture on the relationship between Niigata and water. The children were delighted about the lecture.

On the second day, participants went on a tour to visit four wetlands that represent Niigata; Toyanogata, Sakata, Hyo-ko, and Fukushimagata. The water level at Sakata was higher than usual because of the heavy rain on the night before, but the participants still enjoyed an unforgettable experience of lotus-harvest, in which they were soaked up to their hips with water.

From the second evening to the third day, KODOMO discussions were held in eight separate groups. The language barrier was broken with the support of volunteer interpreters, and the children introduced their wetland, reported activities, and worked on the KODOMO message. Time flew by as they actively mentioned their opinions, and time was too short for the discussion.

The scene was moved to the Niigata Convention Center on the fourth day, and each participant had their presentation on wetland in front of about two hundred audiences.

The final discussion on the KODOMO message was held in the afternoon, with the help of simultaneous translators. The topic was narrowed down to that which was discussed for the past two days, and after the two-hour-long heated up discussion, the decided message was handed over to the mayor of Niigata City Hall, on the scene. The government representative from COP9 also arrived on the scene, and the programme closed with a great success.

"Wetlands are there. Lives are there. We connect them. They become treasures."

This is the message that the Children made in Niigata. Ramsar Center Japan, along with representatives of the children, has brought this KODOMO message to the COP10, and made a presentation on it. KODOMO Ramsar started in 2005 with four participants from four wetlands in Japan as representatives for the COP9. It has been held nine times since then, and 29 of 33 (as of August 2008) registered Ramsar sites in Japan were involved in it. We would like to use this place to thank every participant of KODOMO Ramsar, those who co-operated with us to hold it, and any all involved with it. We received a lot of co-operation and help from Niigata City, the Ministry of Environment, Niigata Prefecture, Sakata Environment Network, Niigata Wild Birds Society, Japan Swan Society, and numerous other NGOs and local organizations. We could not have held this program without the help of these people.
This program was the final one of a series, but we are receiving a lot of comments from the participants to continue this program in some way for the future. We are also receiving letters from participants in India, saying "We want to continue, please!!" We are currently in the middle of trying to figure out a way to somehow continue this programme.