Wetlands International on the ENV Council conclusions on Sustainable Water Management

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Brussels: Wetlands International – European Association positively acknowledges the great interest of the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the EU to discuss sustainable water management and to maintain water a top EU priority.

Today’s ENV Council conclusions highlight the importance of healthy wetland ecosystems in reducing water-related disasters and in achieving EU policy objectives, contributing to the Paris Agreement, UN Sendai Framework and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Implementing policies, such as the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and Floods Directive, will help the EU meet its global obligations.

How we use and manage water and land-based resources is central to disaster and climate risk management. For this reason we welcome the emphasis on the role of green infrastructure measures and we advocate for “Building with Nature” approach in order to achieve more effective management of water flow.

We also stress that better implementation of existing EU legislation is needed, in view of the review of the WFD in 2019.  Restoring rivers is the most tangible benefits to society because of the role they can play in flood mitigation whilst also delivering co-benefits to society such as tourism and recreation, biodiversity, water quality improvement and enhanced land value for development. We advocate for conserving free flowing rivers and unblock barriers to migration. The construction of hard barriers across rivers in many of Europe’s rivers means that few rivers can claim to be genuinely free-flowing anymore and this has had serious implications for a number of migratory fish species such as eel and salmon. Implementation of EU legislation must speed up despite resistance from many national water authorities.

Water security issues can be alleviated by the inclusion of wetland conservation and management into Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), this is particularly important for the Mediterranean region. In the wider geographic area of this region it is estimated that 60 million people suffer from water scarcity and 20 million have no access to potable water. We promote measures for sustainable use of water resources in arid and semi-arid regions, in order to alleviate the scarcity of clean freshwater for people and biodiversity.

We call on the European Commission and Member States to take into consideration an Integrated Risk Management (IRM) approach in water and coastal zone management, in order to become more adaptive to climate change, better adhere to environmental requirements ad consider the need and perspectives of all actors involved. Preparations are needed to ensure that the review of the WFD in 2019 will result in greater recognition that good status of the EU’s water bodies will result in multiple benefits for society.

We ask Ministers of Environment to aim at fully-functioning ecosystems, by safeguarding and restoring wetlands for people and nature.


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