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Water and Biodiversity: UNECE Water Convention puts ecosystems at the heart of water management

Published: 22 May 2013

This year “Water and Biodiversity” is the topic of the International Day for Biological Diversity, which is celebrated annually on 22 May. In 2013 — the International Year of Water Cooperation — the International Day for Biological Diversity aims to raise awareness of the intricate linkages between sound ecosystem management and water management, as well as the role of ecosystems in the sustainable use and protection of water resources.

Poor water management has obvious negative impacts on biodiversity and water-related ecosystems. A good management of ecosystems further provides many opportunities to help address water-related challenges and achieve water security. For example, wetlands can reduce risks from flooding. Restoring soils and forests can reduce erosion and pollution and increase water available for crops. Identifying and strengthening such “bridges” between water management and ecosystems conservation and restoration are therefore vital for cooperation across sectors and borders.  

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) helps countries to address these challenges. A new thematic assessment is currently being developed under the Convention to better understand the interactions between water, food, energy and ecosystems (the so-called “water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus”) in river basins, in order to strengthen policy coherence between the water, agriculture, energy and land management sectors and support decision-making processes.

The Water Convention also supports an integrated approach to water management, the improvement of water quality and the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity in several transboundary basins. Vulnerable ecosystems are a key area of Afghan-Tajik cooperation on environment and hydrology in the upper Amu Darya Basin, which the Water Convention supports, where the first steps are being taken to establish data exchange and assess the status of ecosystems. In the Chu and Talas River Basins, the new project supported by the Global Environmental Facility and UNECE will expand the cooperation of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to water quality and biodiversity. In another example, deterioration of water quality and degradation of ecosystems is bringing Georgia and Azerbaijan together to develop a bilateral agreement on the shared water resources of the Kura River Basin as part of a joint UNECE-Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe project under the Environment and Security Initiative.

For further information please visit: http://www.unece.org/env/water/
or contact:
UNECE Water Convention Secretariat
Phone: +41 (0)22 9173332
E-mail: water.convention@unece.org


Note to Editors:

The UNECE Water Convention’s central aim is to strengthen measures at the local, national and transboundary levels to protect and ensure the quantity, quality and sustainable use of transboundary water resources — both surface waters and groundwaters. The Convention takes a holistic approach, based on the understanding that water resources play an integral part in ecosystems as well as in human societies and economies. Today, 38 UNECE countries and the European Union participate in the Convention.

For the past two decades, the Water Convention has been advancing the use of ecosystem approach in water management. The Convention obliges Governments to take efforts on the conservation and restoration of ecosystems, to establish water-quality objectives and criteria and to develop concerted action programmes for the reduction of pollution.

As demonstrated by the Second Assessment of Transboundary Rivers, Lakes and Groundwaters (2011), such measures have had positive effects on the ecosystems of transboundary basins and the marine environment in the pan-European region. Most Western and Eastern European countries have adopted water-related policies favourable to the recognition of services of water-related ecosystems. However, implementation of innovative economic instruments, such as payments for ecosystem services, is not frequent and often relies on local initiatives. There is a need to improve the protection of water-related ecosystems in economic and spatial planning and water governance in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Some areas experience a continued decline of water-related ecosystems (in particular wetlands), as well as loss of biodiversity.

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Information Unit

Palais des Nations, 

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Tel.: +41 (0) 22 917 44 44

Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 05 05