World Water Day 2013: Cooperation is key

22/03/2013

On World Water Day, SG Anada Tiéga stresses the importance of protecting wetlands and why it must be done multilaterally at the High Level Forum and 2013 international celebration of World Water Day in The Hague.

Mergus merganser, Léman Lake, Switzerland © Laura Máiz-Tomé


This year, in reflection of the International Year of Water Cooperation, World Water Day is dedicated to the theme of cooperation around water. Water knows no borders, and many wetlands are international systems lying across the boundaries of two or more States, or are part of river basins that include more than one State. The health of these wetlands is dependent upon the quality and quantity of the transboundary water supply from rivers, streams, lakes, or underground aquifers. With 260 international river basins providing 60% of the world’s freshwater flows, reinforcing the value of ‘sharing’ processes and improving skills in achieving this is essential.

Water cooperation creates economic benefits

Cooperation is key to address the “nexus” between water, food and energy, which is one of the most fundamental relationships - and increasing challenges - for society. It is time to recognise that global and local water cycles are strongly dependent on wetlands and the values of wetland ecosystem services are typically higher than for other ecosystem types. The Ramsar Convention works with many partners to identify opportunities for the management of all types of wetlands, including transboundary water resources. But to do so, all stakeholders need to realise the economic dangers of continued wetland loss and act upon them by integrating the values of water and wetlands into decision making processes. The recently launched report The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Water and Wetlands lists the benefits derived from wetlands as well as losses faced from destroying them, acknowledging the need for ‘measurement’ of these values to help us manage wetlands better. 

In his intervention in The Hague, SG Anada Tiéga presented the key conclusions and messages drawn from the TEEB report, based on tangible case studies demonstrating the economic and social values of water and wetlands. For example, the Volta River Basin’s area (400,000 km2) includes six countries, but 85% is located in Burkina Faso and Ghana. Population increase and poverty in the area led to water scarcity, land degradation and siltation of river channels. Yet a project launched by the IUCN Water and Nature Initiative (WANI) in partnership with national partners led to the establishment of participatory and multi-scale (local, national, transboundary and regional) governance frameworks for joint management of water resources. For instance, awareness raising and training activities helped local communities to improve their farming techniques while the overall project showed the positive impact on poverty alleviation of integrated water resource management.

Given the increasing human population and its dependence on water and wetlands, it is urgent to fully recognise the values and benefits of nature. SG Tiéga ended his presentation by a call for cooperation between governments, business, NGOs, local communities and indigenous peoples to ensure the long-term sustainability of water and wetlands and start the transition to a resource-efficient economy.

More on the TEEB report here: www.teebweb.org/wetlands/

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