Reducing disaster risks

Mountain lakes and marshes reduce peak flooding. Mangroves reduce the impacts of tsunamis, hurricanes and storms. And in arid regions wetlands are life-savers during extreme droughts. Natural and man-made disasters affect millions of vulnerable people in the world.
It is our aim to ensure that natural ecosystem based solutions 
are integrated in disaster risk reduction (DRR) plans.   

The impacts of natural and man-made disasters are expected to increase not only due to climate related extreme weather, but also due to the loss of wetlands and forests. The vital role of ecosystems is however hardly taken into account in DRR. We have therefore made ‘ecosystem smart disaster risk reduction’ a core focus of our work. We demonstrate that sustaining and restoring wetlands is a cost-effective strategy for DRR and climate change adaptation, with strong benefits for poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation. 

Partnership with humanitarian sector

Our first priority is to collaborate with humanitarian organisations and other decision-makers to integrate ecosystem and landscape based approaches into their disaster risk efforts. Since three years we have therefore joined forces with CARE, Cordaid, the Red Cross and the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre (Partners for Resilience alliance). Together we run a programme that spans nine countries across three continents to strenghten community resilience, empowering civil society and policy dialogue. See for more information. View our joint publications:

We also joined PEDRR, a global alliance of UN agencies, NGOs and specialist institutes which plays a vital role in steering DRR Action frameworks and global activities on reducing the risk of disasters. Read more.
Long term projects in mountain, coastal and arid regions
Wetlands International conducts long-term projects in mountain, arid and coastal areas where we aim to:
  • Work with communities on safer environment via wetland restoration.
  • Develop and share our practical experience and knowledge on the role that specific wetlands play in mitigating water related extremes.
  • Advocate to governments, development organisations and finance institutions to support wetland conservation, wise use and restoration.


Mountain areas

In mountain areas – such as the Himalayas – climate change is leading to more extreme rainfall and melting of glaciers. As a consequence, hazardous floods can occur downstream. Wetlands reduce peak flooding as marshes and lakes store more water than any other natural features.

Arid regions

Population growth and more demand for water is increasing water shortages. In arid regions, climate change will make droughts and water shortages more extreme. Rising temperatures and declining rainfall may create additional water stress. As a result, food production and water availability may drop. The sponge-like ability of wetlands to retain water when all other areas are dry makes them a vital lifeline in arid regions and in periods of extreme droughts.

Coastal areas

In coastal areas, climate change is leading to sea level rise and increased storm intensity. Coastal wetlands such as mangrove forests, marshes and coral reefs can serve as natural buffers and reduce the impacts of waves and storms. Furthermore, they can help adapt to some extent with sea level rise by accumulating silt, preventing erosion and salt water intrusion.

What we achieved

  • In the mountains of China (Ruoergai) and India (Jhelum Basin, Kashmir), we restore wetlands in order to regulate water flows and accommodate glacial melt.

  • In coastal West Africa and Indonesia, we replant mangrove forests for protection against extreme storms and sea level rise.  

  • In Mali, we demonstrate the role of the Inner Niger Delta floodplains in regulating extreme river flows in this arid region.



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