Wetlands provide a wide range of essential, life-supporting services and products to communities and businesses in countries the world over. Despite national governments having signed numerous multilateral environmental agreements, wetlands loss continues unabated and threats intensify amid population growth, coastal property development and land use change.
A host of international organizations are looking to change the economic calculus driving ongoing wetlands loss. Marking the Ramsar Convention's World Wetlands Day 2013 on February 1, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Wetlands International, and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research with the support of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Geneva Environment Network released an environmental policy paper that “urges a major shift in our attitudes to wetlands, to recognize their value in delivering water, raw materials and food, essential for life, and crucial for maintaining people's livelihoods and the sustainability of the world's economies.”
“Everyone in the world depends on water for our life, livelihoods and business, and coastal and inland wetlands are the natural infrastructure that manage and provide our water for us,” Deputy Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention Nick Davidson stated. “This report confirms just how hugely valuable our remaining wetlands are to all of us, yet we continue to damage and destroy them at our increasing peril.”
Moreover, it's the world's poorest, and those who rely directly on harvesting or extracting natural resources, that bear the brunt of water and wetlands loss, the organizations' leaders note. “It is poor people who suffer the most when biodiversity is lost, because their survival depends on the wealth of nature,” TEEB Study Leader and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Pavan Sukhdev, currently Chair of the TEEB Advisory Board, stated.
“When we destroy wetlands, we disrupt nature's water cycle and its ability to provide water for households and farms, so inadvertently we add to the suffering of the poor. This report reinforces the message that restoration and protection of wetlands is vital to address today’s most pressing challenges of water and food security, climate change, and poverty. 'TEEB Water and Wetlands' calls on development policymakers to recognize these ecosystem values and put in place policy responses that promote the conservation and restoration of wetlands.”
One concrete example offered in the TEEB Water and Wetlands report comes from Tunisia, where improved water management practices have led to restoration of Lake Ichkeul, the benefits of which have included a doubling in tourist numbers since 2005.
“The promotion of the lake as a tourist destination helped raise awareness of the value of the lake ecosystems and the importance of the wise use of wetlands,” the report authors relate. “It also generated new sources of income for the Park management and conservation and allowed establishment of basic training and credit schemes to increase the involvement of local communities in tourism activities.”
An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.