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Wetlands are not wastelands

3 October 2017 12:33 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • The incremental economic value of conserving the wetlands, need to be closely looked at. 
  • Substantial funds are required to address threats, pressures, and to enforce controls on land and resource uses as well as manage the Wetlands and its valuable resources.

 

The Institute of Environment Professionals Sri Lanka (IEPSL) is holding its Annual General Meeting today (October 3) at the SLLRDC managed Bio Diversity Park, which is located closer to Thalawathugoda, behind Parliament. At this AGM the selected theme of the IEPSL is Rescuing Wetlands For Economic Development. This article is published to highlight the values of wetlands and contribution towards economy in 
Sri Lanka.  


In considering the economic development of the country, it is also essential to pay an attention on the contribution towards national economy provided by component of wetlands and thereby conduct an assessment on those components of wetlands which forms vitally important, but often neglected. It is very clear that very little work has been carried out on developing and applying economic assessment process to wetlands.   
An understanding of the economic status of wetlands is however critical for planning for their wise use and sustainable management. If at all a proper valuation and assessment need to be carried out, biological, ecological and hydrological contribution to the economy as well as to the environment that could be relatively well-established. In that sense wetlands typically have a high economic value. However, economic forces underlie wetland degradation and loss, and wetland conservation often requires a range of economic management responses with greater interventions.  


The incremental economic value of conserving the wetlands, need to be closely looked at.   

 

 

An understanding of the economic status of wetlands is however critical for planning for their wise use and sustainable management. If at all a proper valuation and assessment need to be carried out, biological, ecological and hydrological contribution to the economy as well as to the environment that could be relatively well-established. In that sense wetlands typically have a high economic value.

 

Initially, let us think of the effect that the assessment methodology to compare “with wetland” and “without wetland” a scenario, indicating what wetland conservation adds to economic output and welfare as compared to the next most likely alternative land use (Reclamation for settlement and industry).Within the context of wise use principles, wetland conservation is considered to include the uses of wetland and resources to generate for economic benefits. Since there are no proper attention to assess functions of wetlands, limited information is however available as to the sustainability of current resource uses, and the ability of the wetland to continue natural process of filtering and cleaning the existing waste loads.   


In considering the other aspects in view of the economic valuation, that the wetlands are currently able to effectively attenuate flooding, providing firewood, fisheries and limited agricultural production are also a valuable natural resources need to be considered and essentially to be kept within sustainable levels. Accordingly wetland benefits could be categorized as:  


Direct benefits: Economic values yielded by the physical use of wetland resources and  ecosystems for production and consumption (For example fishery, tourism, firewood).  
Economic benefits associated with the direct use of wetland resources such as fishing and tourism are most prominent values. Most of the wetlands are provided or facilitated for popular recreational destination for urban dwellers and foreign tourists.  


Indirect benefits: Economic values yielded by wetland environmental services and eco system functions and services (Example nutrient retention, micro-climate regulation, flood attenuation, wastewater treatment, water supply and ground water recharge, fish breeding and nursery, landscape value, carbon sink).  


Mangroves provide nursery habitat for many wildlife species, including commercial fish and crustaceans, and thus contribute to sustaining the local abundance of fish and shellfish populations. There are hundreds of fauna and flora species recorded in many wetlands showing the valuable diversity.  


Optional benefits: The economic valuation placed on maintaining wetland species and ecosystems for future possible economic uses, some of which may not be known now (Example development for pharmaceutical (medicinal plants), industrial (minerals), agricultural, innovative and value addition) applications, values placed on possible future uses and applications such as: Future tourism development, future commercial applications of wild plants, species and genes).  


Existing benefits: Intrinsic values attached to the existence of wetland species and ecosystems, regardless of actual use (For example, aesthetic, national heritage, cultural significance, leisure, recreation and education and research  significance).  


The simplest and most straightforward way of valuing wetland goods and services is to look at their market prices - what they cost to buy or what they are worth to sell. 
For example, Muthurajawela/ Negombo lagoon, market price-based valuation techniques could be applied to the economic benefits associated with annual fish production worth of some billions of Rupees, agricultural and plant-based handicraft production activities in the marsh area worth of another millions of rupees based on the calculation on livelihood of the people living in the vicinity of wetlands. (These valuations are estimated many studies such as Muthurajawela and Negombo lagoon, Madu Ganga etc.)  


However, often the case with environmental goods and services, many of the economic benefits associated with wetlands have no market price, or are subject to prices that are highly distorted. In these cases a range of alternative valuation techniques could, in principle, be applied: 


Effects on production: The life support provided as inputs by those wetlands ecosystem and other economic processes often rely on wetland resources have to be given much concerns. Where they have a market, it is possible to value wetland goods and services in terms of their contribution to the output or income of those other production and consumption opportunities.  

For the case of effects on production techniques could be used to assess the economic value of wetland wastewater treatment services and provision of fish breeding and nursery habitat functions in terms of their contribution to downstream fisheries- in the lagoon system specially, where there are sea grasses as well as mangroves.  
Replacement costs: Even where wetland goods and services have no market themselves, they often have alternatives or substitutes that can be bought and sold. This replacement costs can be used as a proxy for the value of wetland goods and services, although usually represent only partial estimates, or under-estimates.   
For the case of all wetlands replacement costs could be used to assess the value of flood retention in terms of artificial infrastructure required to provide a similar level of services.  


Wetlands also have a function in mitigating, reducing or avoiding damages to the environment during adverse situations, such as Tsunami and other ad worse environmental impacts. If closely monitor or assess the value where situation to avoid damage costs due to carbon sequestration in terms of climate change-related damage costs which could be avoided in view of the services of Wetlands. Mangroves roots support to purify effluent and retain sediments and are functionally linked to neighbouring coastal ecosystems safeguarding coral reefs.  


On the other hand what are other scenarios to be considered as Mitigative or avertive expenditures? It is almost always necessary to take action to mitigate or avert the negative effects of the loss to the environment goods and services, so as to avoid economic costs. For example, the value of wastewater treatment and ground water recharge services, value of fresh water storage etc. in terms of alternative expenditures could be avoided with the wetland natural functions.  


Ensuring that wetland conservation generates tangible economic benefits to both national income and people in the local areas through uses of its valuable resources:  
There are numerous threats to wetland considering it as a “waste lands” and try to utilise or exploit as place for dumping or reclamation, discharging waste and waste water and chemicals with many harmful substances.  


Substantial funds are required to address threats, pressures, and to enforce controls on land and resource uses as well as manage the Wetlands and its valuable resources.   
Currently there are few funds or no funds available to undertake that tasks or to extend an adequate level of protection to the wetland. 


To ensure that the public sector agencies and private individuals who profit from wetland goods and services and are able to pay for those use are charged fair prices. If they are retained and allocated at the site level, such revenues can provide an important source of funding for the conservation of this valuable natural asset. Also it is necessary to mention that modern marketing strategies along with sustainable management and conservation strategies based biodiversity park concept can be implemented in generating funds which is called Wise use of Wetlands. 

 

 

 

 

 

“Protect Wetlands for future generations’.

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