|Asunto:||[LEA-Venezuela] No solo para los pajaros: Convencion Ramsar de humedales|
|Fecha:||Domingo, 17 de Noviembre, 2002 08:54:20 (-0400)|
|Autor:||interfaz <interfaz @.....net>
Date: 11/14/2002 14:02
Document Size: Short (1 or 2 pages)
Document ID: FD20021114890000037
Subject(s): ANS; Airport; Budget; Conference; Conservation; Construction;
Economic Growth; Egypt; Environment; Food; Georgia; Germany; Government;
Habitat; Hydroelectric; Iceland; Johannesburg; Local; Marine; Metals;
Natural Resources; Oil; Population; Poverty; Security; South Africa; Spain;
St. Lucia; Treaty; Water
The Ramsar Convention On Wetlands: Not Just for the Birds
Story Filed: Thursday, November 14, 2002 2:02 PM EST
Nov 13, 2002 (World Wildlife Fund/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) --
Freshwater is perhaps the most important resource on Earth. Despite this,
few global agreements on freshwater exist and the oldest and most effective
of them the Ramsar Convention is often sidelined. The upcoming 8th
Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP8) is crucial to the convention s
evolution as an instrument for the sustainable use and conservation of
The world's freshwater perhaps the most important resource on Earth is
under great pressure. Despite this, few international agreements on
freshwater exist. And sadly, the oldest and most effective is often
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is the only environmental treaty for a
particular ecosystem and the first global intergovernmental treaty to
combine conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Signed in
1971, it originally focused on the conservation and wise use of wetlands
primarily to protect waterbird habitat. However, its basic tenets have
broadened over the years to recognize wetlands, including coastal wetlands
such as mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrass beds, as ecosystems that are
extremely important for both biodiversity conservation and the well-being
of human communities.
Its ability to evolve is perhaps why the convention has been remarkably
ahead of its time. Before the concepts of sustainable development and
conservation partnerships became popular ahead of this year's World Summit
on Sustainable Development (WSSD), the Ramsar Convention was already
actively engaging government, non-government, and multilateral agencies as
well as local and indigenous peoples in partnerships. This approach,
together with the convention's simplicity, is behind its success in
cementing cross-boundary agreements on wetland use and management.
At present, the convention has 133 nations as members, all of which have
committed to promote the conservation and sustainable use of freshwater
ecosystems through national action and international cooperation. These
member nations have together designated an impressive eight per cent of the
world's wetlands covering 105.8 million hectares, an area almost the size
of Egypt for inclusion in the convention's List of Wetlands of
International Importance. These listings, commonly called Ramsar sites, not
only recognize the world's most important wetlands, but are also an
effective tool to help countries further their sustainable development
goals, balance conservation needs, and address poverty alleviation.
One key achievement of the convention has been to heighten awareness of the
importance of wetlands. Swamps, marshes, bogs, and many other wetlands have
traditionally been viewed as undesirable and accordingly been drained or
dammed. However over the last few decades, the value of wetland ecosystems
as sources of water, food, and other resources, as well as highly efficient
water treatment works, has been more and more recognized. This shift in
perception is in large part due to the efforts of the Ramsar Convention.
Public recognition of the value of Ramsar sites and their protection status
under an international agreement have been important aids to wetlands
conservation. One example of this is South Africa's Greater St. Lucia
Ramsar site. Following government engagement of the Ramsar Convention s
advisory mission in 1992, a project to mine heavy metals from sand dunes in
this site was stopped in 1996 and the South African Government instead
undertook a programme to encourage economic growth through sustainable
ecotourism in the area.
The convention also serves as an umbrella for projects in wetlands that
help poverty alleviation. The Working for Water and Working for Wetlands
programmes in South Africa, for example, have trained and employed
thousands of disadvantaged people to restore the health of wetlands and
their capacity to deliver reliable supplies of clean water.
But despite its successes and continued relevance, the Ramsar Convention
continues to be sidelined or under-utilized by some governments.
For example, at the last Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP7) held
in 1999, some 55 nations made pledges that should have resulted in nearly
400 new Ramsar sites being designated by this month, in time for the next
conference, COP8, which will be held from 18 26 November. However, only 27
per cent of nations have met their pledges. In addition, there continues to
be a gross under-representation of coral, mangrove, seagrass, and peatland
There is also an alarming increase in the number of incidents in which
parts of Ramsar sites are being destroyed. Examples include destruction of
a site in Germany for an airport runway extension and in Georgia for an oil
terminal, and proposed destruction of a site in Iceland for construction of
a hydroelectric dam.
Also alarming is Spain's approach to wetlands management particularly as
Spain is host nation for COP8. The country's controversial National
Hydrological Plan proposes an inter-basin water transfer and the
construction of more than 100 new dams that would inflict massive damage on
the country s wetlands. In WWF s view, this plan is inconsistent with the
obligations of a Contracting Party, and ignores economically, socially, and
environmentally better alternatives for water supply.
COP8 will be crucial to the Ramsar Convention s continuing growth and
evolution. Coming soon after the WSSD, at which a number of decisions were
made on freshwater issues, COP8 must respond swiftly and prudently to
reinforce and demonstrate the central role of the convention in addressing
poverty eradication, food and water security, sanitation, and biodiversity
The COP8 agenda has a number of strategic issues which, if dealt with
appropriately, could allow the Ramsar Convention to be the first of the
global, intergovernmental environment treaties to act in response to WSSD
outputs. These issues include proposed resolutions on the allocation and
management of water for maintaining the ecological function of wetlands,
the application of the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams by
the Ramsar Convention, and guidelines for sustainable groundwater use that
is compatible with wetlands conservation.
The Ramsar member nations must also redouble their efforts to
systematically conserve wetlands. This includes the designation of more
Ramsar sites to conserve more than 250 million hectares by 2010. These
designations must be strategic, and must include mountain wetlands as well
as coastal and marine habitats. In addition, further attention is required
to better manage wetlands and to guard against the careless destruction of
The convention's meagre budget of US$2.1 million is another issue that must
be addressed. This budget is at best just 20 per cent of that of comparable
treaties, severely limiting the support available to member nations,
particularly developing countries. The lack of funds is not helped by the
Ramsar Convention predating the United Nations system that has incorporated
subsequent global environmental agreements, and thus being excluded from
receiving direct funding from bodies like the Global Environment Facility.
WWF is calling on member nations to adopt a significant budget increase at
Wetlands are essential to the health of the world's freshwater ecosystems
and to our own freshwater supplies. But the situation is critical. Half the
world s wetlands have been destroyed in the last 100 years. Some 1.5
billion people lack ready access to drinking water and if current
consumption patterns continue, at least 3.5 billion people 48 per cent of
the world s projected population will live in water-short river basins in
The 133 member nations of the Ramsar Convention must act promptly to better
manage wetlands, especially in light of the recent decisions taken in
Johannesburg. COP8 provides a timely opportunity to take measures that will
ensure the sustainable use and conservation of freshwater ecosystems for
both people and nature.
by By Jamie Pittock
Copyright World Wildlife Fund. Distributed by All Africa Global
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