Ramsar conference to hear good news of putting wetlands to work in the Danube basin



Posted on 07 July 2012  | 
The Danube at Belene, Bulgaria.
The Danube at Belene, Bulgaria.
© Alexander IvanovEnlarge
Bucharest, Romania - “The defining challenge of this century is figuring out how all of our grandchildren will have the food, water and energy they need, and we will only meet that challenge if we secure the healthy freshwater ecosystems on which food, water and energy depend”, said WWF International Director General Jim Leape last night during the opening session of the 11th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, known as the Ramsar Convention.

This conference comes shortly after Rio+20, a squandered opportunity to put the world on a path toward sustainable development. One bright spot in the Rio text was the recognition that water is at the core of sustainable development and that healthy ecosystems are essential to maintaining water quantity and quality. Leape urged Ramsar’s 162 Contracting Parties to turn this recognition into action to conserve the “blue thread” that runs through every society and economy.

“Some of the best news the Ramsar delegates hear will be coming from the host country Romania and the broader Danube basin”, said Andreas Beckmann, Director of the WWF Danube-Carpathian programme.

“In the past twenty years since the fall of the Iron Curtain, a veritable revolution has taken place in the way that wetland areas are seen and treated across the Danube basin. High level commitments have been made to promote wetland conservation and restoration, at EU, regional and national levels. In Romania, the government has pledged to restore 500,000 hectares of former floodplain areas, including areas on the Lower Danube and in the Danube Delta. Similar initiatives are underway in Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Hungary, Moldova, Austria and Germany. Taken together, they are bringing back at least some of the 80% of Danube floodplains and wetlands lost to diking and dredging since the 19th century”, Beckmann said.

Remarkable efforts are also underway to preserve the 20% of valuable wetlands in the Danube River basin that still remain.

In 2000, facilitated by WWF, the governments of Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine agreed to establish the Lower Danube Green Corridor. Twelve years on, Europe’s most ambitious wetland conservation initiative is well on its way, with 1.4 million hectares of valuable floodplain areas under some form of protection.

“A similarly ambitious initiative is now underway on the middle Danube, where the governments of Croatia, Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia and Austria have committed themselves to establish another green corridor of protection along the Drava from the Mura to the Danube rivers – Europe’s Amazon. When established, the Mura-Drava-Danube will be the world’s first five-country UNESCO Biosphere Reserve", Beckmann said.

Last night’s session was the official start of a week of meetings to share knowledge and experience on the conservation of wetlands across the globe. WWF is one of five International Organization Partners of the Convention, along with BirdLife International, IUCN, International Water Management Institute and Wetlands International.

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