Why an intergovernment convention on wetlands?
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was developed as a means to call international attention to the rate at which wetland habitats were disappearing, in part due to a lack of understanding of their important functions, values, goods and services. Governments that join the Convention are expressing their willingness to make a commitment to helping to reverse that history of wetland loss and degradation.
In addition, many wetlands are international systems lying across the boundaries of two or more States, or are part of river basins that include more than one State. The health of these and other wetlands is dependent upon the quality and quantity of the transboundary water supply from rivers, streams, lakes, or underground aquifers. The best intentions of countries on either side of those frontiers can be frustrated without a framework for international discussion and cooperation toward mutual benefits.
Human impacts on water sources, such as agricultural, industrial or domestic pollution, may occur at considerable distances from wetland areas, often beyond the borders of the States affected. Where this occurs, wetland habitats can be degraded or even destroyed, and the health and livelihood of local people put at risk.
Many of the wetland fauna, for example some fish species, many waterbirds, insects such as butterflies and dragonflies, and mammals such as otters, are migratory species whose conservation and management also require international cooperation.
In sum, wetlands constitute a resource of great economic, cultural, scientific and recreational value to human life; wetlands and people are ultimately interdependent. As such, the progressive encroachment on and loss of wetlands needs to be stemmed, and measures must be taken to conserve and make wise use of wetland resources. To achieve this at a global level requires cooperative, intergovernmental action. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands provides the framework for such international, as well as for national and local action.