Wetlands are key to Disaster Risk Reduction

Wetlands are key to Disaster Risk Reduction

February 2nd marks World Wetlands Day which aims to raise awareness of the value of wetlands for humanity and our planet.

Wetlands can have a significant role in risk management and disaster reduction, helping to make communities more resilient against water hazards such as drought, floods and storms.

Over 90% of global disasters are caused by water related hazards and continue to have significant and devastating impacts on people’s lives.

Climate change continues to increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather which causes water related hazards. The effects of these disasters, such as fatalities and damages, are often exacerbated by poor decisions and actions that worsen the severity of hazards and make communities more vulnerable.

As a natural infrastructure, wetlands can mitigate the physical effects of hazards by providing food, clean water, enhance immediate coping strategies and sustain a long term recovery.

However, the value of wetlands in coping with disasters is often overlooked in Disaster Risk Reduction strategies. Since 1900 64% of the world’s wetlands have been lost and wetland degradation is occurring at an alarming rate, thereby lowering resistance to disasters.

Studies have shown that it is more cost effective to invest in wetland conservation than in hard infrastructure for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Ramsar, the organiser of World Wetlands Day, highlights a need to integrate wetlands with national Disaster Risk Reduction strategies and hard engineering techniques.

In recent years a growing number of governments are integrating wetlands into their Disaster Risk Reduction policies. For example: the Philippines’ disaster prevention and recovery programme, and India’s National Disaster Management Plan.

Ramsar’s study ‘Wetlands for disaster risk reduction: Effective choices for resilient communities’ makes a number of recommendations for policy makers including:

  • Promote collaboration between the development, humanitarian and environmental sectors
  • Emphasise how wetland degradation amplifies disasters
  • Include wetland indicators within monitoring systems for global processes.
  • Raise awareness and capacity in development planning.

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