WWF Launches Emergency Recovery Plan | WWF Zambia

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WWF Launches Emergency Recovery Plan

WWF launches Emergency Recovery Plan that could halt catastrophic collapse in world’s freshwater biodiversity

With biodiversity vanishing from rivers, lakes and wetlands at  alarming  speed,  a  new  scientific  paper  by  WWF  International  outlines  an  Emergency Recovery Plan to reverse the rapid decline in the world’s freshwater species and habitats – and safeguard our life support systems.

Published  today  in  BioScience,  the  Emergency  Recovery  Plan  calls  for  the  world  to  take urgent steps to tackle the threats that have led to an 83% collapse in freshwater species populations and the loss of 30% of freshwater ecosystems since 1970 – ecosystems that provide us with water, food, livelihoods, and protection from floods, droughts and storms.

Developed by a global team of scientists from WWF, International Union for Conservation of   Nature   (IUCN),   Conservation   International,   Cardiff   University   and   other   eminent organizations and academic institutions, this is the first comprehensive plan to protect and restore freshwater habitats, which host more species per square kilometer than land or oceans – and are losing this extraordinary biodiversity two or three times faster.

The  six-point  plan  prioritizes  solutions  that  are rooted  in  cutting edge  science  and  have already proven successful in certain locations: letting rivers flow more naturally, reducing pollution, protecting critical wetland habitats, ending over-fishing and unsustainable sand mining in rivers and lakes, controlling invasive species, and safeguarding and restoring river connectivity through better planning of dams and other infrastructure.

Nowhere is the biodiversity crisis more acute than in the world’s rivers, lakes and wetlands
–  with  over a  quarter  of freshwater  species  now heading for  extinction. The Emergency Recovery Plan can halt this decades-long decline and restore life to our dying freshwater ecosystems, which underpin all of our societies and economies
,” said Dave Tickner, WWF- UK Chief Freshwater Advisor and lead author on the paper.
Covering approximately 1% of the Earth’s surface, rivers, lakes and freshwater wetlands are home to 10% of all species and more described fish species than in all the world’s oceans. But they are rapidly disappearing with populations of freshwater megafauna – such as river dolphins, sturgeon, beavers, crocodiles and giant turtles – crashing by 88% in the past half century. 

The causes of the global collapse in freshwater biodiversity are no secret, yet the world has consistently failed to act, turning a blind eye to the worsening crisis even though healthy freshwater ecosystems are central to our survival. The Emergency Recovery Plan provides an  ambitious  roadmap  to  safeguarding  freshwater  biodiversity  –  and  all  the  benefits  it provides to people across the world,” said co-author, Professor Steven Cooke of Carleton University in Canada.

The Emergency Recovery Plan highlights a variety of measures that together will transform the management and health of rivers, lakes and wetlands, such as treating more than 20% of  sewage before it is flushed into nature,  avoiding dams on the  world’s remaining free flowing rivers, and expanding and strengthening protected areas in partnership with local communities.

All the solutions in the Emergency Recovery Plan have been tried and tested somewhere in the world: they are realistic, pragmatic and they work. We are calling on governments, investors,   companies   and   communities   to   prioritize   freshwater   biodiversity   –   often neglected by the  conservation  and  water  management  worlds.  Now  is  the  time  to implement  these  solutions,  before  it  is  too  late,”  said  James  Dalton,  Director  of  IUCN’s Global Water Programme.

We have the last opportunity to create a world with rivers and lakes that once again teem with wildlife, and with wetlands that are healthy enough to sustain our communities and cities, but only if we stop treating them like sewers and wastelands,” said Tickner. “This decade will be critical for freshwater biodiversity: countries must seize the chance to keep our life support systems running by ensuring freshwater conservation and restoration are central to a New Deal for Nature and People”.

Critically,  with  governments  meeting  in  November  to  agree  on  a  new  global  deal  to conserve and restore biodiversity at a landmark conference of the Convention on Biological Diversity-  CBD,  the  authors recommend  some new targets, including on restoring water flows, controlling illegal and unregulated sand mining in rivers, and improving management of freshwater fisheries that feed hundreds of millions of people.  Therefore, WWF in Zambia calls for higher ambitions and setting of higher national targets for enhancing freshwater biodiversity protection through its national CBD strategies and supportive policies, as well as calls for a crystal clear position during the COP 15 meeting scheduled to take place in China as which the global framework will be adopted. This extremely important as Zambia’s biodiversity faces a number of challenges and threats. Freshwater biodiversity in particular faces  threats  from  water  pollution,  damming  of  rivers,  bad  fishing  practices,  threats  of invasive  species,  uncoordinated  planning  and  land  use,  and  unsustainable  agricultural practices.  Given  this  there  is  need  for  the  Government  in  Zambia  to  strengthen  the implementation of the convention on Biodiversity targets.

WWF   Zambia   makes   a   further   call   on   the   Zambian   Government   to   embrace   key recommendations in the Emergency Recovery Plan for freshwater biodiversity which offers quick solutions to addressing current freshwater biodiversity threats and challenges above. WWF Zambia calls the government to urgent action particularly around the Zambezi river basin which is a major source of freshwater water not only in Zambia but in eight other riparian states. This basin faces great challenges arising from competing demands for water usage ranging from energy generation, abstraction for crop irrigation purposes as well as domestic and industrial uses. Zambia recently discovered uranium deposits in the North-western part of the country in the upper Zambezi river basin and mining is currently under way. Recognizing that uranium is a highly radioactive material and Zambia being a member  of  the  international  Atomic  Energy  Agency  (IAEA),  It  is  incumbent  upon  the Zambian  Government  to  ensure  there  is  maximum  protection  at  all  times.  The  greatest threat  is  contamination  of  the  river  Zambezi  which  is  home  to  about  65  million  people amongst the 8 countries that share this resource.