6 May 1998
[Note: Mr Harwood's report was published by ECO (Issue no. 1, 6 May), the newsletter produced by NGOs following the developments at the CBD's COP4, and broadcast by the biodiv-conv e-mail mailing list also on 6 May.]
Convention on Biological Diversity
Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties
Bratislava, Slovak Republic, 4-15 May 1998
Why Reinvent the Wheel?? - Inland Waters, Ramsar and the CBD
Inland water ecosystems are vital to human economies around the world and are essential to the survival of a large number of globally threatened species, particularly birds. Unfortunately, these important ecosystems are also hugely vulnerable to damage by human activities, including drainage and pollution, which threatens the survival of many species as well as numerous and diverse human communities.
However, the issues surrounding international wetlands management and preservation have not been altogether ignored. The Ramsar Convention has already been in force for 27 years and has made significant contributions to wetlands management, including the adoption of "best practice" guidance by signatories on "wise use" of wetlands, management planning and many other issues. This guidance can serve as a framework for action by CBD parties considering the issues surrounding biodiversity and wetlands.
A joint CBD/Ramsar programme of work on wetlands would deliver significant practical benefits for wetland biodiversity over a relatively short space of time, while a model for collaboration between the CBD and other conventions. Such a programme, focusing on issues such as economic instruments, environmental impact assessments and the promotion of adequate networks of protected wetland areas should generate concrete achievements for both human communities and wetland species.
COP-4 should adopt such a work programme and encourage governments to link national strategies or action plans for biodiversity with the national wetland policies advocated under the Ramsar Convention. COP-4 should also encourage governments to frame policies on agriculture, water resources, sewage disposal, pollution control and other wetland issues in ways which better safeguard the biological diversity of inland waters. The worlds wetlands need rapid action to save them from a dire fate - the CBD and Ramsar together can deliver that action on a timescale that makes sense for nature and humankind.
Blake Lee Harwood