Global wetland preservation, management is priority for UAE

30th September, 2018 (WAM) — The UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, MOCCAE, has taken significant measures towards wetland preservation and management, from launching the National Ecotourism Project to hosting an anticipated 1,000 delegates at the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, COP13, this October.

Ahead of event, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands released the Global Wetlands Outlook 2018, GWO, highlighting that the world’s wetlands are declining rapidly, and have registered losses of 35 percent since 1970, at a pace three times faster than the loss of forests. The report warns that unless immediate action is taken, there will be serious repercussions for the future. The GWO’s findings will inform discussions and decisions at COP13.

Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said, “Wetlands are not just essential habitats for various species in the UAE that safeguard endangered species such as the Hawksbill turtles and White-collared Kingfisher, but also offer ecotourism opportunities and scope to expedite our journey to sustainable development. They can also be part of the solution for climate change mitigation, due to their carbon sequestration abilities. The UAE became a Ramsar member state in 2007, and we are honoured to host COP13 this year in Dubai, and to help drive discussions on wetland preservation and management.”

Spanning a global area of 12.1 million square kilometres, an area nearly as large as Greenland, natural wetlands are disappearing at three times the rate of forests lost. Only 13-18 percent of them are on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, also known as Ramsar sites. The UAE is home to seven Ramsar sites, with many more set to gain this status.

The study highlights the rich economic value of services provided by wetlands that are a source of food supplies and freshwater. Wetlands have also regulating effects that influence climate and hydrological regimes, thereby reducing pollution and disaster risks. For instance, coastal mangroves help to prevent land erosion and offer protection from tsunamis and cyclones. Another beneficial impact of wetlands is the storage and sequestration of carbon, to help regulate the global climate. Peatlands and coastal wetlands are major carbon sinks, and can sequester millions of tons of carbon annually.

“The Global Wetland Outlook is a wake-up call – not only on the steep rate of loss of the world’s wetlands but also on the critical services they provide. Without them, the global agenda on sustainable development will not be achieved,” said Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary-General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. “We need urgent collective action to reverse trends on wetland loss and degradation, and secure both the future of wetlands and our own at the same time.”

The Parties to the Ramsar Convention have committed to the conservation and wise use of all wetlands. Although they have designated more than 2,300 sites of international importance so far, making the Ramsar List one of the world’s largest networks of protected areas, designating new sites for protection is not enough.

The report includes additional recommendations, such as identifying solutions for the responsible use of wetlands that draw upon all expertise – ranging from hard science to traditional knowledge – to secure wide engagement from all stakeholders on wetland protection and wise use, and to ensure sound decision-making.

“There is a slow awakening to the value of wetlands. Across the globe, legislative bodies need to integrate wetlands into policy programs and invest in their sustainability. We need to educate the world on the critical importance of this most rapidly disappearing ecosystem. Without the world’s wetlands, we all hang in the balance,” Urrego concluded.

WAM/Rola Alghoul/Rasha Abubaker

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