Wetlands, Water and the Law


A brilliant new book, important for all practitioners in the field of wetland management and wise use, has recently been published by IUCN as IUCN Environmental Policy and Law Paper no. 38. 

lawbook1.jpg (21865 bytes)Clare Shine and Cyrille de Klemm (1999). Wetlands, Water and the Law: Using law to advance wetland conservation and wise use. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, Cambridge, UK, and Bonn, Germany. xvi and 330 pp.

This very well written and thoroughly researched new study offers an astonishing breadth of coverage over the role of law in wetland conservation throughout the world, amply illustrated with examples and case studies from nearly every nation.  Focused primarily, of course, on the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, it also covers the contributions of other global and regional legal regimes, and investigates such thematic issues as land-use planning, river basin and coastal zone management, EIA, permit systems, economic incentives, enforcement, transboundary wetlands, and much more.

It is a landmark book, one which will probably become the baseline of all future work on the application of legislation to water-related environmental issues.

The book can be purchased from IUCN   Publications Services Unit, 219c Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 0DL, UK (info@books.iucn.org).

The following is a reprint of the book's Foreword by Françoise Burhenne-Guilmin, Head of the IUCN Environmental Law Centre, Bonn, Germany

The idea for Wetlands, Water and the Law grew out of the Conference on Legal Aspects of the Conservation of Wetlands in Lyon, 1987, which was organised by the IUCN Environmental Law Centre. Since that time, there have been radical changes in international and national environmental policy and law. The Earth Summit at Rio has come and gone; concepts such as 'sustainable development' have entered daily language. We have seen the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity and other instruments that extend conservation and sustainable use measures to all natural systems and components and address social, economic and cultural considerations.

These developments have shaped wetland policy and law in far-reaching ways. The Ramsar Convention celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 1996 with a set of comprehensive and forward-looking tools. While keeping its special relationship with waterbirds and nature conservation, Ramsar has expanded its focus to cover other species, sectors, actors and issues. It has drawn public and political attention to the contribution wetlands make to sustainable management of limited freshwater resources and thus to regional stability. This is one of the most critical issues facing our planet as we move into the next millennium.

Wetland conservation and wise use depends on a series of important relationships between:

  • wetlands, people and human institutions;
  • land and water use within and beyond national boundaries;
  • different economic sectors;
  • public and private actors, including non-governmental organisations;
  • scientific, economic and legal disciplines;
  • legal instruments at international, national and local level; and
  • regulatory and incentive-based approaches to wetland management.

Wetlands, Water and the Law provides a structured framework for considering these complex relationships. It sets wetlands in their scientific, economic and legal context, before describing the main legal issues involved in implementing the Ramsar Convention. Parts 3-6 take an increasingly broad focus, dealing respectively with site-specific and bioregional approaches to wetland management, generally-applicable techniques for managing damaging processes and activities and, lastly, regional and international frameworks for cooperation. These mechanisms overlap and interlock and should be mutually reinforcing.

The book complements the recent work of scientists and economists by describing how laws and institutions can work for (or against) wetland conservation and wise use. Each chapter makes the link between international legal obligations and national or local mechanisms for delivering implementation. Drawing on national practice around the world, the book illustrates how different legal approaches and techniques can be adapted to widely-varying national conditions and capabilities. Key components for legal and institutional frameworks suited to the challenge of wise use implementation are set out in the conclusion.

For nearly a decade, Clare Shine and Cyrille de Klemm have worked together on biological diversity issues and have produced several important reports and publications for the IUCN Environmental Law Programme. But this book is special. Not only was it prepared over a number of years during which both Clare and Cyrille attempted to synthesise the results of extensive research, observations and practice in the field of wetlands law. The book was also prepared at a time when Cyrille gradually lost his physical strength. It was finalised by Clare shortly after his death in April of 1999.

Wetlands, Water and the Law is thus the first monument to Cyrille's memory, and to his long collaboration with Clare. Without Clare's dedication to the task, and friendship with Cyrille, this book simply would not have been completed.

All those who recognized in Cyrille de Klemm a visionary in the environmental conservation law field will be grateful to him for making his last thoughts on the subject available to us. They will also be grateful to Clare, not only for her own expert contribution, but for carrying his torch. 

Back to top
Follow us 
Ramsar Awards 

The Convention today

Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

Ramsar Secretariat

Rue Mauverney 28
CH-1196 Gland, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 22 999 0170
Fax: +41 22 999 0169
E-Mail: ramsar@ramsar.org
Map: click here

Ramsar Forum: subscribe