World Summit on Sustainable Development -- WWF honors nine countries for Ramsar and wetland contributions

27/08/2002

Press Release
Embargo until 13.30 hrs GMT 27 August 2002

Nine countries achieve freshwater milestone and set example for sustainable development at World Summit

Johannesburg, South Africa - WWF, the conservation organization, today publicly lauded the commitment of nine countries for their contribution of more than 500,000 hectares of wetlands each, thus securing access to water and its myriad indispensable benefits for people and nature.

Wetlands are crucial for flood control, water purification and food supply, yet half of the world's wetlands have been destroyed in the last 100 years alone. Such loss is directly related to the type of catastrophic flooding seen recently along the major rivers of Central Europe. In 2002, Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Chad, China, Guinea, Peru, Tanzania and Zambia have together committed to conserve 22 million hectares of wetlands by including them in a special list under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands; this number equals 25 per cent of the total area registered under Ramsar between 1974 and 2001.

"By conserving wetlands, these countries are enhancing water and food security, and building a sustainable economic base," said Chief Emeka Anyaoku, WWF's International President. "The venue for this announcement is symbolic as South Africa was the first African country to join the Ramsar Convention and also because protecting freshwater ecosystems will advance the central themes of the Summit: poverty eradication and sustainable development. We hope other countries will use the opportunity of this Summit to make similar commitments."

WWF is calling on leaders in Johannesburg for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to agree to better manage river basins and wetlands as the key to providing clean water, supporting economies through fishery and agriculture, and managing floods. A key element of better river management entails governments' recognition of wetlands conservation under the Ramsar Convention as effective means to alleviate poverty. WWF wants agreement at the World Summit for an enhanced mandate and resources for the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar 1971) as the leading international instrument for the sustainable management of freshwater ecosystems and coastal and marine wetlands. Such agreement should clearly acknowledge, and focus on, the ecological functions of wetlands and their vital role in providing water of appropriate quantity and quality for people and nature.

The Ramsar Convention's mission is "the conservation and wise use of wetlands by national action and international cooperation as a means to achieving sustainable development throughout the world". The Convention will hold its triennial meeting in November 2002 in Valencia, Spain, when South African Minister Valli Moosa is expected to convey to the gathering the results of the World Summit and appropriate action by the Convention. This will give countries a new chance to announce the designation of more wetlands under the Convention and their plans to effectively manage all wetlands in their territories, so that they may yield the greatest continuous benefit to present and future generations.

"Wetlands can no longer be seen as prime property to be drained, excavated, or modified at will, with no second thought for their provision of the one resource we cannot live without - water," said Delmar Blasco, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention.

For further information:
Lisa Hadeed, Communications Manager, WWF Living Waters Programme, Tel. +41 22 3649030, lhadeed@wwfint.org
Kyla Evans, Head of Press, WWF International, Tel. +27 828 588 464, kevans@wwfint.org

WWF background information

Protecting Wetlands for a Water-Secure Future

Freshwater and the WSSD

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