The Water Convention's "Nature for Water"

17/03/2006

UN ECE Water Convention's "Nature for Water" publications

The secretariat of the UNECE Water Convention ("Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes", Helsinki 1992) invited the Ramsar Secretariat to participate actively in its programme on "Nature for Water". This has already lead to a number of significant outputs:

In December 2004, a seminar on the role of ecosystems as water suppliers was held in the United Nations Office at Geneva. The seminar contributions by many Ramsar Parties showed that forests and wetlands can replace expensive engineering structures for flood control and waste-water treatment. They store water and reduce erosion, mitigate floods, and retain pollutants and excess nutrients. The basic services that wetlands and forests provide (production of pure water, flood control and recreation) are worth billions. The seminar contributions showed that many cities are already using forests and wetlands to cut the cost of supplying clean water to their residents. New York, Istanbul, Stockholm and Basel are all taking advantage of the properties of the surrounding forests to save on water treatment. The detailed national reports and seminar contributions are accessible at: www.unece.org/env/water/meetings/ecosystem/seminar.htm, and concise results and conclusions were published in an illustrated brochure "Nature for water: protecting water-related ecosystems for sustainable development" (attached here [PDF] or downloadable at www.unece.org/env/water/). The brochure was distributed at a special event of the 13th meeting of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in April 2005 in New York (cf. www.ramsar.org/mtg/mtg_csd13_1.htm).

This was followed up in October 2005 with a second seminar on environmental services and financing for the protection and sustainable use of ecosystems, also in Geneva (detailed contributions available at: www.unece.org/env/water/meetings/payment_ecosystems/seminar.htm). The seminar was organized around three themes: valuing ecosystem services, legal and contractual aspects, and challenges for implementation. Currently, a small working group is drafting a "code of conduct" on the integration of ecosystems in water management and the payment for ecosystem services for adoption by the Parties to the Water Convention at their 4th meeting in November 2006 (in Bonn, Germany). Just in time for distribution during the 4th World Water Forum in Mexico (16-22 March 2006), the results of this second seminar were published in a second brochure "Nature for water: innovative financing for the environment" highlighting several case studies (available here: cf. attached PDF or at www.unece.org/env/water/). It focuses on the mechanisms for payment for services provided by wetlands and other water-related ecosystems which are constituent parts of river basins. Intended specifically for policy makers and administrative authorities, the brochure explains how payment for ecosystem services (PES) can help solve water management problems, and what legal, administrative and institutional arrangements are needed. This is a highly relevant theme for Ramsar's framework of water-related guidance (Resolution IX.1 Annex C).

-- Tobias Salathé, Ramsar

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