World Wide Fund for Nature press release on WWD

02/02/1998

panda.gif (879 bytes)World Wide Fund for Nature
Fonds Mondial pour la Nature
Fondo Mundial para la Naturaleza

NEWS RELEASE

Conservation News Service
WWF International
CH-1196 Gland, Switzerland


Embargo: 2 February, 1998

SAVING WETLANDS CAN HELP AVERT GLOBAL FRESHWATER CRISIS

WORLD WETLANDS DAY - 2 February

GLAND, Switzerland -- On the occasion of World Wetlands Day, WWF-World Wide Fund For Nature urges governments to protect and restore their wetland sites and to take serious steps to avert an emerging global freshwater crisis.

"Demand for freshwater is expected to grow by 650 per cent over the next 30 years as the world population is projected to increase by 50 per cent," said Dr Claude Martin, Director General of WWF International. Given the incredible pressure this will put on freshwater resources, countries must live up to their promises to maintain and restore their wetland sites, otherwise they will contribute to making water an even scarcer natural resource.

With just over a year until the next conference of parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Costa Rica, 10-18 May 1999), WWF urges that the country reports governments must submit later this year for the meeting should show clearly and in detail how they have implemented the decisions made at the last conference in Brisbane, Australia in 1996.

"Implementation of these decisions concerning the protection of large bodies of freshwater, the prevention of pollution and the restoration of degraded wetlands would be a positive first step towards maintaining freshwater for future generations and at the same time protecting valuable species and ecosystems. Governments must get tough on any scheme that degrades or destroys wetlands," added Dr Martin.

Today, 106 countries are signatories to the Convention on Wetlands, originally signed on 2 February 1971 in Ramsar, Iran. They have committed themselves to a process of identifying sites within their territories that can be classified as "wetlands of international importance". In addition, they are obligated to ensure the conservation and wise use of these sites. Thus far, about 900 sites have been placed on the Ramsar list covering some 67,500,000 hectares, more than the total area of France or Kenya.

Member countries of the Convention are also obligated to ensure the sound management of all wetlands within their territories. However, none of the 106 member countries has yet applied the Convention to its full extent. So far, only 13 countries have drawn up national wetlands policies while an equal number are in the process of developing one. In addition, only 30 countries have set up national Ramsar committees, which can play a pivotal cross-sectoral role.

Water system regulations and drainage for agriculture and urban development have been the major causes of loss of over 50 per cent of the wetlands in countries all over the world including the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan, Thailand, Niger, Chad, Tanzania, India, Viet Nam, and Italy.

-End-

Contact: Someshwar Singh at +41 22 3649553 or +41 79 310 8102 (mobile).

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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

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