World Wetlands Day 2006 -- press releases from WWF


World Wetlands Day: Freshwater getting scarcer with loss of wetlands

02 Feb 2006

Gland, Switzerland – More than one billion people lack access to freshwater and more than two billion people lack adequate sanitation services. Wetlands and rivers are the source of water, a source of life, and they are running out fast. In some developing countries – worst hit by the water crisis – the loss of wetlands forces people to walk greater distances to fetch water for cooking and basic everyday care.

"With already half the world’s wetlands gone, we need a new mindset that appreciates wetlands as water’s source and storage instead of land to be drained and developed,” said Jamie Pittock, Director of WWF’s Freshwater Programme.

"It doesn’t matter how many dams you build to provide energy, food and water – without properly functioning lakes and rivers, there will be not be enough water.”

About two billion people are already experiencing water shortages. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Synthesis report, wild caught fisheries and freshwater are exploited well beyond sustainable levels and this does not factor in future, growing demand. Water removal for human use means that several major rivers, including the Nile, Yellow, and Colorado Rivers, do not always flow to the sea.

A recent WWF report shows that freshwater fish are under particular threat without enough oxygen to breathe as waters grow warmer. The link is perhaps nowhere more evident than in mountains such as the Alps and Himalayas where glacier meltdown affects the reliability of water flowing to towns and farms downstream.

“Wetlands’ values need also to be seen in economic terms because once lost, the billions of dollars in material and services provided by these freshwater systems are almost never recoverable,” added Pittock.

On this World Wetlands Day, WWF urges governments and communities engaged in land and water resource management to think twice before draining wetlands. WWF reminds leaders of the added impact of climate change which is already intensifying droughts and floods.


• The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 150 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 1,556 wetland sites, totalling 129.6 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.

• WWF works to protect and manage 250 million hectares of representative wetlands by 2010. To date, WWF has been the catalyst for reservation of 4.75 per cent (49 million hectares) freshwater habitat from 1999-2005.

For further information:
Brian Thomson, Press Officer
WWF International
Tel: +41 22 364 9562

Lisa Hadeed, Communications Manager
WWF Global Freshwater Programme
Tel: +41 22 364 9030

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
Map: click here

Ramsar Forum: subscribe