Joint Global Action on Wetland Conservation (International Perspective)

author:Global Network

Source: People's Daily

Joint Global Action on Wetland Conservation (International Perspective)

The picture shows a corner of Singapore's Sungai Bulo Wetland Reserve.

Photo by Deng Zhiwei (Xinhua News Agency)

Core reading

Known as the "kidney of the earth", wetlands are important ecosystems with various ecological functions such as conserving water sources, purifying water quality, regulating climate and maintaining biodiversity. Cherishing wetlands is the common responsibility of mankind.

The 14th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Wetlands was recently held simultaneously in Wuhan, China, and Geneva, Switzerland. With the theme of "Cherish Wetlands, Harmonious Coexistence between Man and Nature", the conference gathered consensus from all parties, promoted cooperation in wetland protection, and contributed Chinese wisdom and Chinese solutions to global ecological governance.

In recent years, some countries have paid more attention to wetland conservation and adopted a series of measures to strengthen wetland protection and restoration, and promoted the sustainable use and development of natural resources.

Singapore –

Creating biodiversity corridors

Walking the mangrove trail, you can see lizards floating in the water and herons flying overhead. Occasionally, kingfishers enter the water and quickly take away small fish... Walking into Singapore's Sungai Bulo Wetland Reserve, you will be greeted by beautiful natural scenery.

Located in the northwest of Singapore, across the sea from Johor Bahru, Malaysia, Sungai Bulo Wetland Reserve covers an area of over 200 hectares and is home to different types of animal habitats such as mangroves, mudflats, ponds and forests. There are also a wide variety of birds, including herons, fruit doves, cuckoos, short-billed swiftlets and so on. Some of these are near-threatened birds, such as parakeets; Some are endangered birds, such as the lesser green-footed sandpiper. There are also wildlife such as round-nosed monitor lizards and bay crocodiles.

In 1986, some birdwatchers were the first to discover that the environment is secluded and diverse, and it is home to many migratory birds. In 1989, the Singapore government designated the site as a natural park. In 2002, it was listed as Singapore's first wetland reserve and became an important habitat on the East Asian-Australasian bird migration route. In 2003, the reserve was listed as an ASEAN Heritage Park.

The reserve focuses on protecting wetland biodiversity and allowing visitors to experience the unique charm of wetland ecology. The wetland reserve's approximately 8-kilometer-long winding trail is a popular spot for many visitors. It is shaped like a conch and like a birdcage, and it is a special artistic conception to be in it for bird watching. In the large mangrove forest, there are several brown viewing rooms for visitors to watch the ebb and flow. When the tide rises, the mangroves are submerged in the water, and lizards crawl on the branches; At low tide, the mangrove root system is bare and tangled, showing its tenacious vitality.

The development of the Sungai Bulo Wetland Reserve has not been without smooth sailing. With the development of tourism projects, the ecological environment of mangroves has been damaged to a certain extent, some tree roots have shrunk, trunks have fallen down, and soil has been eroded. A few years ago, it was also polluted by the beach. In response to pollution and destruction, according to the Master Plan of the National Parks Authority of Singapore, the wetland reserve is linked with other regional partners in the surrounding area to form a biodiversity corridor for the protection of mangroves and wildlife by connecting the natural environment around the wetland, minimizing human interference with the nature reserve.

Wetland reserves also zone human activities to minimize negative impacts: Zones 1 and 2 are high and medium activity areas, including nature trails, visitor center areas, and coastal fronts, where visitors can get up close and personal with mangroves and coastal habitats; The third and fourth areas are low activity areas and very low activity areas, and tourist activities are restricted or completely prohibited to maintain the quiet natural ecology of the wetland environment. Protected areas have also increased community volunteerism, sponsorship, etc. to achieve financial sustainability and reduce dependence on government funding.

Botswana –

Coordinate actions to balance the interests of all parties

Every year in January and February, during the rainy season in the southwest of the African continent, rain rushes down from the lush highlands of Angola and flows southeast into the Okavango River. In the months that followed, the water extended far northwest of Botswana to the Okavango Delta. In this green space full of shoals and streams, antelopes jump among the grass, wildebeest whistles, elephants step out of shallow rivers...

The Okavango wetlands are the world's largest inland seasonal wetlands, doubling in size each year during the flood season. Lions, cheetahs, rhinos, giraffes and hundreds of thousands of other large mammals are attracted to this water of life. This is an important safeguard for the continent's biodiversity. In 2014, the Okavango wetlands were inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List and protected by the Convention on Wetlands.

The Okavango River, which flows through Angola, Namibia and Botswana, is an important source of water for millions of people. To protect the Okavango wetlands, it is necessary not only to maintain the natural ecosystem, but also to consider the production and living needs of the people in the surrounding areas. Since 2018, with the joint support and participation of the governments of the three countries, international non-profit organizations such as WWF and The Nature Conservancy have set up joint project teams to find a balance between economic development and environmental protection in the local area.

For example, according to the actual situation in Angola, the project team helped the local area to find alternatives to hydropower development, recommended the development of solar energy, and carefully selected the site of the project to be far from the wildlife migration corridor. "Ecological protection is key, and in order to achieve the sustainability of economic activities, the project team draws on its work experience in Kenya and Tanzania and works with Angola's forestry and fisheries authorities to train people in environmental protection production techniques to promote the coordinated development of people and the natural environment," said Shihisa Kimura, project director of the Okavango Watershed Program at The Nature Conservancy. ”

Water is at the heart of wetland conservation, with 95% of Okavango wetlands coming from Angola, but most of the actual tourism activities and revenues take place in Botswana. How to comprehensively consider the distribution of interests between upstream and downstream countries to reduce disputes caused by economic disparities between regions is an inescapable issue for wetland protection. To this end, stakeholders have formed the Cubango-Okavango River Basin Fund, which aims to balance the interests of all parties by supporting economic development within the basin. Under an agreement signed in 1994, Angola, Namibia and Botswana committed themselves to coordinated action for sustainable water resources development while addressing the economic and social needs of each country. Portia Segmero, coordinator of the Management Plan of the Okavango River Basin Standing Committee, said: "The principle 'water is life' brings us together. So we need to share the benefits and strengthen investment in water research and management. ”

According to a report released by the South African Institute of International Studies, Okavango wetland conservation has achieved continuous cooperation for nearly 30 years, which is a successful model for transboundary natural resource management in the region and provides useful experience for solving similar transboundary land use and biodiversity issues.

Belgium –

Let the public perceive the charm of wetlands

Located in the heart of Belgium's Hain valley, the 550-hectare Hachis wetland is a major gathering place for flora and fauna of the Walloon region and an important stopover for bird migration, and was included in the List of Wetlands of International Importance in 1986.

In the 60s of last century, a real estate company developed on the wetland, which caused great damage to the living environment of animals and plants. In 1970, the site was bought by the Belgian Ministry of Education and entrusted to the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. Since then, bodies of water have been returned and many species have returned to wetlands. More than 300 species of birds have been monitored in the Hachis wetland and is one of the richest habitats for dragonfly species in the Walloon region.

The Hachis wetlands are an important base for eco-educational tourism in Belgium. Throughout the year, the school organizes students to visit here. People of all ages come here to see the flora and fauna and sketch here. In the face of a steady stream of visitors, the wetland management department has formulated a series of rules and regulations, such as: not allowing the harvesting of plants and catching wild animals in the wetland; Do not disturb birds and other animals, etc.

On the first and third Saturday of every month, Hatches Wetland also holds a variety of excursions for the public, including various art exhibitions, lectures, seminars, etc., to let the public perceive the charm of the wetland through science and art.

According to a report jointly released by WWF and the Royal Institute of Natural Sciences of Belgium, the number of insects such as locusts and butterflies has increased by an average of 47.6% in wetland areas over the past 28 years. In agricultural areas, some bird populations declined by an average of 60.9 percent. Belgian zoologist Terry Paternoster said: "Wetlands are treasures of human beings, and here you can fully experience the beauty of nature. ”