Wetlands for disaster risk reduction: Effective choices for resilient communities

Wetlands for disaster risk reduction: Effective choices for resilient communities

13 October 2017

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The conservation, sustainable use and restoration of wetlands can contribute significantly to the achievement of the Paris ambitions as efficient and effective nature-based solutions for mitigation of climate change and adaptation to its impacts.

Reducing the number of water related disasters such as floods, storm surges and droughts is possible if the right decisions and choices are made, is the main message of Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction, a policy brief launched today by the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, on the occasion of the International Day for Disaster Reduction.

Degradation of wetlands reduces resilience against water-related hazards. Integrating wetlands as natural infrastructure alone or in conjunction with engineered structures can increase the resilience of people living along coastlines and across entire river basins. As natural buffers, wetlands can help reduce the impact of disasters by collecting and holding water during floods, releasing water to reduce droughts, and protecting coastal communities against storm surges.

“90% of disasters are water related, many of them the result of extreme weather. It is possible to greatly reduce the impact of weather related disasters if we recognize the important role of wetlands and adopt policies and strategies that conserve and restore these important ecosystems,” said Martha Rojas-Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

The Policy Brief explains why wetlands are important for disaster risk reduction and proposes a raft of recommendations and policy considerations to guide decision-makers integrate wetlands within their national disaster risk reduction plans and strategies. In order for wetlands to be an effective solution for disaster risk reduction the Policy Brief recommends that;

  • The development, humanitarian and environmental agencies should collaborate and ensure that their management frameworks and actions are coherent;
  • Wetlands and the benefits they provide should be considered in disaster risk assessments and their impacts should be considered across entire river basins or coastal zones rather than just political and administrative boundaries;
  • Development planning and land use changes should be considered when assessing disaster risk patterns and wetland degradation; and
  • Rapid environmental assessments conducted after a disaster should consider options for wetland restoration as a contribution to wetland recovery.

Recognition of the value of wetlands is essential to ensuring that the role of wetlands is reflected in global policy processes such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Policy Brief was produced by the Ramsar Convention Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP). The Policy Brief is available in the three languages of the Convention languages in (English, French and Spanish)