The Danube - National water planners to learn more about wetland protection

09/02/2006

PRESS RELEASE (EMBARGO FEBRUARY 2, 2006 00:01)

No wetland protection means no EU water protection, says DEF

(February 2, 2006: Bratislava, Slovakia) An international campaign to protect Danube wetlands and waters was launched by the Danube Environmental Forum (DEF) today, on World Wetlands Day.

Danube country national governments are now making plans to ensure that waters within their national boundaries are protected by 2015. This is to fulfil EU water protection legislation known as the Water Framework Directive. This includes non-EU countries sharing the Danube River Basin that voluntarily agreed to meet EU water law.

"We believe that these planning processes do not consider wetlands seriously enough," says DEF spokesman Johannes Wolf. "This cannot continue because water cannot be properly protected without protecting wetlands." National assessments earlier prepared by Danube countries of the status of their water resources did not adequately include wetlands, says DEF.

Wetlands are places where water and land naturally cooperate to protect water, animals, plants and humans. They help reduce pollution and flood impacts, improve drinking water, and provide homes for important animal and plant species. Many Danube wetlands were damaged through past human actions and many are threatened by future investments.

Campaign

The DEF campaign will encourage national water planners to learn more about, and better apply, wetland protection. International organizations such as the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), UNDP-GEF Danube Regional Project (DRP), WWF and the Ramsar Convention Secretariat have all produced helpful tools to assist planners in their efforts. DEF also supports a new DRP project that will produce new guidelines and best practices for wetland protection.

The DEF campaign has support from the Secretariat of the global Ramsar Convention on Wetlands which coordinates World Wetlands Day.

A key gap to be filled, says DEF, is the development of national inventories of wetlands which are now largely non-existent in most countries. "How can you save wetlands if you don't even have a list of where they are?" says Wolf. DEF will push for better access to information to, and greater public participation in, developing national water protection plans. "Civil society can offer valuable support including information, experiences, lessons and experts." The progress of Danube national governments in including wetland protection measures in their national plans will be monitored by DEF -- results will be publicly disseminated on Danube Day, June 29, 2006 and World Wetlands Day 2007.

DEF NGOs are also holding a number of local actions today in Danube countries to promote World Wetlands Day. These include press conferences in Germany and Czech Republic on the importance of wetlands and their role in flood prevention. Public awareness will be raised with wetland tours in Hungary and Croatia, and explanations of the threats from planned navigation projects to wetlands in Romania. And a national wetland conference and new protected wetland sites will be launched in Slovenia.

Notes to Editors:

What is DEF ? (The Danube Environmental Forum):

DEF is a Danube River Basin-wide platform of non-governmental, non-profit and politically independent environmental organisations. DEF fulfils its mission through encouraging cooperation among governmental and non-governmental organisations in the Danube River region, supporting the exchange of information, and promoting public participation in environmental decision-making.

Currently 174 NGOs from 13 countries (Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine) constitute the membership of DEF. The DEF Secretariat is located in Bratislava, Slovakia, and is hosted by DAPHNE - Institute of Applied Ecology. DEF has its National Focal Points in 13 states and is open to new members from all Danube countries working towards environmental protection in water-related issues.

A crucial goal for DEF is to create a Danube River Basin-wide platform of non-governmental organisations that have a common understanding in, and approach to, environmental protection of the Danube River. The core of DEF's effort is to reinforce information exchange and cooperation among national and international institutions, the NGO community and the public sector leading to sustainable development of Danube River Basin.

DEF aims to develop and reinforce partnerships between governmental and non-governmental organizations, particularly with regards to the implementation of EU WFD. DEF members utilise the skills and experiences developed after many years of practice in public participation activities to support the development of an effective Public Participation (PP) Strategy for the Danube River Basin.

What's World Wetlands Day?

Day to celebrate the importance of wetlands for nature and humans around the world. Every year the World Wetlands Day is celebrated under a different theme.

World Wetlands Day 2006 - 'Wetlands as a tool in poverty alleviation'
This theme for World Wetlands Day 2006, promoting wetlands as lifelines, originates in the COP9 theme, 'Wetlands and water - supporting life, sustaining livelihoods'. COP9 adopted, in Resolution 14 on Wetlands and poverty reduction, the need for Contracting Parties and others to ensure:

human life and safety: measures to protect against impacts such as cyclones, storm surges, saline intrusions, droughts and floods through the sustainable use and restoration of wetlands;
access to resources: measures to improve access to and develop capacity to use, on a sustainable basis, land, water and wetland resources such as fish, in full respect of international and national legislation, respecting the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples consistent with national law and applicable international obligations;
ecological sustainability: measures to enhance the priority given to sustainability in all relevant mainstream policy sectors, including ecosystem restoration measures;
governance: measures to improve the empowerment of the poor in decision-making processes and management institutions;
economies: measures to maintain or improve, on an ecologically sustainable basis, the ecosystem benefits/services that wetlands provide.

World Wetlands Day should help us therefore explore the many ways that wetlands can and should play a role in poverty reduction, using this list as an aide memoire. And while poverty alleviation is a key target for some parts of the world, the principles that conservation and wise use of wetlands will help reduce poverty and promote better human well-being is real EVERYWHERE. For if we do not achieve sustainable use of wetlands, even where there is currently no poverty, there is the potential for it to develop.
Source: www.ramsar.org

Further information and contacts:

Danube Environmental Forum Secretariat
Monika Chrenkova
Tel: +421 2 657 300 50
e-mail: def@changenet.sk

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