World Wetlands Day 2003: Argentina

05/02/2003

[original press releases in Spanish]


World Wetlands Day 2003

New protected areas will be created by the littoral provinces in the Paraná and Paraguay rivers

· This is an initiative of Fundación Proteger, supported by WWF International.
· The surface to be covered reaches 1.500.000 hectares of fluvial wetlands.
· It will be conformed by a corridor of wetlands to be preserved as Ramsar sites.

Santa Fe, Argentina, 24th January.- In view of the World Wetlands Day, 2nd February, and continuing with its campaign to create protected areas as Ramsar Sites in the Paraná and Paraguay rivers, Fundación Proteger will start a trip around the fluvial provinces of Argentina. Starting on January 29th, the provincial governments will publicly make known their commitment to supporting the proposal and beginning a participative process with social stakeholders, producers and the scientific sector.

The initiative is supported by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF International) through the Living Waters Programme, the representative of which, Denis Landenbergue, visited the region some days ago. The proposal is to promote the declaration of new Ramsar Sites on the wetlands of Paraná and Paraguay rivers. The aim is to preserve the biological diversity, and the ecological and hydrological functions performed by these ecosystems, maintaining human life, production, job and the regional economies.

In this sense, Jorge Cappato, general director of Proteger, explained that "the aim is to declare large assembled Ramsar Sites from Formosa to the Delta, placing this corridor at the centre of the international attention with the world largest wetlands, opening the doors to new chances of conservation and socio-economic sustainable development". Cappato was awarded the Global 500 of United Nations (1992) and is Non governmental Focal Point of the Ramsar Convention for Argentina.

The WWF-Proteger initiative 2003 is framed within the recently fixed goal by the Ramsar Convention, i.e. increasing the 106 million of hectares of protected wetlands all over the world to 250 million of hectares for the year 2010. It is worth reminding that 2003 has been proclaimed by UNEP as the "International Year of Freshwater".

Along the trip, members of Proteger will visit the capital cities of the littoral provinces where they will take part of official ceremonies and meetings supporting the World Wetlands Day. The provincial states of Chaco, Corrientes, Formosa and Entre Ríos will publically make known their commitment of reaching the declaration of Ramsar Sites along the Parana and Paraguay rivers floodplain, and Santa Fe is expected to do so. The Ramsar Site Jaaukanigás has already been created in this last province, with 496.000 hectares on the Paraná, but the initiative is intended to create more in order to protect the fluvial wetlands.

The Paraná and Paraguay rivers floodplain in Argentina constitutes a world unique system and the main source of freshwater for our country. It is part of the largest corridor of wetlands on the planet, which is born in the Pantanal of Matogrosso, goes down along the Paraguay river wetlands and continues through Paraná river wetlands up to the Rio de la Plata, constituting one of the largest freshwater reservoirs on the Earth. It is placed in the del Plata Basin, which is the most important after the Amazonas Basin and fourth in the world.

The Ramsar Convention

The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty, adopted on 2nd February 1971, in Ramsar, Iran, which is the reason why it is known as the Ramsar Convention. Its aim is to promote the conservation and wise use of wetlands, acknowledging that these are extremely important ecosystems for the conservation of biological diversity and welfare of human communities.

The Convention's mission is "the conservation and wise use of wetlands by local, regional and national actions, thanks to international cooperation as a mean to achieve sustainable development throughout the world".

Wetlands are areas where water is the main factor, controlling environment, and its related vegetal and animal life. They are considered among the most productive ecosystems on the planet and provide important economic and social benefits, by means of their natural resources, the functions they perform for the maintenance of life, regulation of climate and water regimes, and their socio-cultural importance for the communities depending on them.

Nevertheless, as the result of ignorance, thoughtlessness or misplanification, many wetlands are threatened or have been devastated. The destruction of these environments leads to the loss or decrease of multiple services and goods, and the corresponding economic, environmental and social impacts.

Among the diverse and vital functions of wetlands, it is particularly important for our region the regulation of floods, since they are as large sponges and reservoirs which have the capacity of storing excessive water during periods of large rains or floodings, absorving downstream floods and guaranteeing a continuous flow of water along the year.

Rivers and wetlands are granted fundamental uses in the littoral region, i.e. fishing (sportive, commercial and artisanal), transport, tourism and recreation. These ecosystems are an important source of resources and at the same time agile paths of communication offering spaces of recreation, in the middle of natural landscapes of exceptional beauty.

The act of designating (include in the Ramsar List) a wetland of international importance that meets the Convention criteria, is a proper first step towards the conservation and sustainable use, and the aim is to accomplish the wise (sustainable) use of the site in the long term, favouring production, job and the conservation of wetland and its resources.

At present the Ramsar list includes 1.230 wetlands of international importance, summing up 106 million of hectares protected in the 135 member states. Bolivia has recently declared as a Ramsar Site a region of 3 million of hectares of the Pantanal territory, constituting a fact of international resonance.

Ramsar Sites

The aim of the List is to maintain and create an international network of wetlands of importance for the conservation of global biological diversity and for the maintenance of human life, considering the functions they perform.

The designation of Ramsar sites is a tool to promote and support the sustainable use of the present resources in these systems, meeting the criteria agreed during the World Summit in Rio and in Johannesburg regarding sustainable development. The wise use of wetlands is understood as "sustainable utilization for the benefit of mankind in a way compatible with the maintenance of the natural properties of the ecosystem"; i.e., so that the system may yield the greatest continous benefits to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations.

Further information:
Julieta Peteán - Programa de Humedales de PROTEGER
Cel: 0342-155-465774 - Telefax: 0342-4558520
Email: humedales.proteger@arnet.com.ar
Webs: www.proteger.org.ar - www.ramsar.org

[photos by Jorge Cappato]

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