World Wetlands Day 2009 -- ICIMOD


World Wetlands Day is celebrated this year with a special focus on ‘Upstream-Downstream: Wetlands connect us all’. The focus is designed around the theme of wetlands in the context of river basin management and the role our wetlands play in their surrounding environments.

This year’s slogan is very relevant to the mountain context of the Himalayan region. At the local level, wetlands in the mountains and their associated services play a vital role in supporting the livelihoods of local communities, and especially activities like fishing and agriculture. At the river basin scale, wetlands are important for balancing the hydrological regimes or water balance of the river systems and acting, for example, as buffer zones for flood hazards and water resources. The upstream land and water management activities in the mountains affect both the water availability and the risks for downstream communities. The wetlands in the mountain regions connect the upstream and downstream physical systems.  

Increased attention needs to be paid to these largely biophysical aspects of wetlands. There is a need to review conventional policy-programme processes that in the past have created and increased inequalities between highlands and lowlands through economic links that are unfavourable to highlands and uncompensated ecological and economic flows from highlands to lowlands.

The Himalayan wetlands, and especially the high altitude wetlands, are under great threat from climate change. These wetlands appear to be shrinking at a higher rate than wetlands in other parts of the world. The loss of glaciers will also affect the wetlands and lead to significant decreases in the availability of freshwater in the region, which is a source of freshwater for rivers that serve close to 20% of the world’s population.

The time has come to focus on managing our wetlands better and finding ways to use their precious water resources more effectively -- to grow food, to provide clean drinking water, to maintain their special biodiversity and genetic resources, and so many others. Sound management plans are needed so that wetlands can maintain their ecological health and enhance their resilience, and thereby increase their adaptive capacity to meet the challenges of global climate change.

Together with its regional member countries, ICIMOD is focusing on development of the information and knowledge needed to improve our understanding of the wetland resources of the Himalayan region to provide a sound basis for developing such plans and strategies. See the flyer at

Best wishes,

Dr. Hua Ouyang
Programme Manager
Integrated Water and Hazards Management (IWHM)/ICIMOD

Dr. Eklabya Sharma
Programme Manager
Environmental Change and Ecosystem Services (ECES)/ICIMOD


Nira Gurung (Ms), Communications Officer
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development
GPO Box 3226, Khumaltar, Lalitpur, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Tel +977-1-5003222 Direct Line 5003310 Ext 115 Fax +977-1-5003277  Web

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