Although most governments are represented on a high level, they failed to agree on anything that will enforce any action on the global problems of droughts, floods and pollution caused at least partly by wetland destruction. Many government delegations appeared mainly to be present to support their national industries.
The lack of progress made on this tri-annual governmental meeting shows the need for international agreement on the establishment of clear standards for water management, for example through a water convention. Only this will lead to clear agreements for action. Chris Baker: “There are many legally binding international agreements; on climate change, on migratory species and even on the protection of bats. But on water, there is only this noncommittal fair.” As water problems and threats are transboundary and global, international action must be taken.
Wetlands International fears the focus on large scale infrastructural solutions evident at this Forum. These primarily deliver water and hydro-electricity to urban areas. Some of these projects are successful. Many just give false hope. They can worsen the livelihoods of the rural poor whose water is taken. Many of these projects prove to be very unsustainable and deliver limited benefits for a huge price in construction and wetland loss. Wetlands International calls for the principles of the World Commission on Dams to be followed. The official topic event on ‘Wetlands and livelihoods’ held by Wetlands International and WWF, clearly demonstrated how additional dams in the Niger River would worsen the position of the rural population,who depend on the wetlands downstream. A study has shown that benefits upstream will be outweighed by costs for people downstream if further dams are built. In particular the poor downstream face loss in fish catches and loss of agricultural and grazing grounds. This Forum has failed to enable these more balanced stories about the actual effects of large scale dam infrastructures to be heard.
Dr. Chris BakerSenior Technical Officer, Wetlands International
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