Water – sustaining life, sustaining livelihoods
Why BirdLife was at the meeting of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development
Governments and stakeholders from around the world met in New York for the 12th and 13th Sessions of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (in 2004 and 2005 respectively) to evaluate progress made and make progress on implementing international sustainable development commitments - focusing especially on water, sanitation and human settlements.
CSD-12 provided a valuable opportunity to exchange experience, lessons learned and crucial messages for sustainable development as countries work collectively toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the targets set during the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). This contributed to CSD-13, which decided on measures to speed up implementation, overcome obstacles and constraints, and build on lessons learned.
BirdLife called on governments to engage fully with the CSD and to commit to meeting the 2005 target for integrated water resource (river basin) managment plans (IWRM), crucial to support sustainable development. Outcomes recognised this taregt as off track and highlighted the need to pay particular attention to environmental needs as well as economic development and social ones. Water must be addressed an international imperative – both for people and biodiversity.
Over and inappropriate use, as well as projected increased future demand for freshwater, alongside continued destruction of forests and upland catchments, all pose serious threats. They are not only threats to the continued maintenance and functioning of wetland ecosystems and their biological diversity, but to human well-being, too.
Representatives from the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) contributed to CSD to ensure that crucial cross-cutting issues such protecting and managing the natural resource base were not forgotten. BirdLife believes that protecting ecosystem function and biodiversity is fundamental to water security, human livelihoods and sustainable development.
BirdLife have contributed lessons learned from our experience of working for many years on water related projects, for example in the Hadejia Nguru Wetlands in Nigeria and the Uluguru Mountain catchment in Tanzania. Natural resources are the basis for development, but to genuinely eradicate poverty they must be managed sustainably so that they can continue to form part of the complex web that supports all life on Earth now and into the future.
The WSSD target to significantly reduce biodiversity loss by 2010 shows a growing recognition of the significance of biodiversity to poverty eradication and well-being. This now needs to be coherently linked to development policy and MDG7 "ensuring environmental sustainability".
The RSPB, as part of BirdLife International, has also teamed up with other environment and development groups to urge the UK Government and others to demonstrate how the challenge of safe water, basic sanitation and integrated river management for all users can be met.
The international water imperative:
- Natural wetlands are a vital piece of the ecological jigsaw and are the lifeblood for millions of people and animals
- Freshwater ecosystems occupy less than 1% of the Earth's surface
- Wetlands deliver goods and services of enormous global value - some US$70 billion annually (WWF, 2004)
- This vital resource is becoming scarce because of increased demand, greater pollution and habitat degradation. Already, 50% of wetlands worldwide have been destroyed or heavily altered - freshwater ecosystems are amongst the most threatened in the world.
- At least 12% of all Globally Threatened Birds (146 species) depend on wetlands
- Worldwide, approximately 70% of water is used for agriculture, 20% for industry and 10% for domestic use
- Currently, over 1.1 billion people lack access to safe water and 2.4 billion lack access to basic sanitation
- In developing countries, an estimated 90% of wastewater is discharged directly into rivers and streams without treatment
- There are some 250 millions cases of and 2 million human deaths from water related diseases every year
- Impacts of climate change are likely to worsen the situation in many parts of the world, particularly areas susceptible to storms, flooding and droughts
For further information, contact: Joanna Phillips, Head of Trade and Development, the RSPB (Joanna.Phillips@rspb.org.uk)