Wetlands International CEO Jane Madgwick is participating in a high-level panel on water cooperation for ecosystems at the International Conference on Water Cooperation in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. As part of the International Year of Water Cooperation, we are attending to highlight the urgent need to safeguard and restore wetland ecosystems as a key strategy to address water security challenges.
The United Nations has proclaimed 2013 the International Year of Water Cooperation, and Wetlands International is doing its part to promote the role of wetland ecosystems as natural water infrastructure. Water cooperation that sustains river basins, wetlands and other water-related ecosystems is critical to ensure water of sufficient quantity and quality for both people and nature now and in the future. The Millennium Ecosystem Report (2005) however points out that aquatic ecosystems continue to be degraded, with 60% of the related ecosystems services studied in the process of being lost.
The high-level panel aims to advise on the urgent steps that need to be taken to strengthen water cooperation to reverse the current degradation of aquatic ecosystems. Wetlands International works in a number of major river and lake basins (like the Niger, Senegal and Tana in Africa; Mahanadi and Manipur in India; and Parana in Argentina) where we have shown that safeguarding and restoring wetlands is critical to regulate water flows to reduce the damaging impacts of floods and droughts and to sustain the productivity of agriculture and fisheries. Investments and strategies that incorporate natural water infrastructure can help underpin urban and rural development while improving the health of ecosystems, resilience to climate change and disaster risk.
Better cooperation is paramount. A priority is to identify, map and internalise the values of ecosystem services in water resource management decisions. For this to happen, governments, businesses and civil society need to share their information and negotiate solutions that optimise benefits for the different stakeholders in a watershed context. Raising awareness and enabling dialogue among the variety of sectors and stakeholders involved is a critical first step, where organisations like Wetlands International can play a facilitating role. There are also many good practice examples that can be replicated and scaled up but they need to be made more accessible through knowledge-sharing platforms and clearing houses for information exchange.
Convened by UNEP and IWMI, other panel participants include the heads of the Stockholm Environment Institute and CAREC. As part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda Global Thematic Consultations, the International Conference on Water Cooperation in Dushanbe, Tajikistan brings together governments and civil society to discuss recommendations on improved cooperation to preserve water resources and protect the environment.
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