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  • Delegates from over 40 western hemispheric nations, and international partner organisations, are currently in Kingston attending the 5th Pan American Regional Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Wetlands (RAMSAR), being held between December 6 and 10 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston.
  • Organised by the Ministry of Housing, Environment, Water and Local Government, through the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), the regional meeting is focusing on issues to be addressed at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Wetlands, slated for Bucharest, Romania, in July 2012.
  • The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental Treaty which provides the framework for national action and international co-operation in the conservation and sustainable use of wetland biodiversity and resources. It was signed in the city of Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, with Jamaica becoming the 104th signatory in October 1997.

Delegates from over 40 western hemispheric nations, and international partner organisations, are currently in Kingston attending the 5th Pan American Regional Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Wetlands (RAMSAR), being held between December 6 and 10 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston.

Organised by the Ministry of Housing, Environment, Water and Local Government, through the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), the regional meeting is focusing on issues to be addressed at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Wetlands, slated for Bucharest, Romania, in July 2012.

The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental Treaty which provides the framework for national action and international co-operation in the conservation and sustainable use of wetland biodiversity and resources. It was signed in the city of Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, with Jamaica becoming the 104th signatory in October 1997.

The five-day meeting in Jamaica will also allow delegates the opportunity to assess the progress made in implementing the Convention of the Americas.

Speaking at Tuesday’s (December 6) opening ceremony at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, Housing, Environment, Water and local Government Minister, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, said Jamaica has long recognised the importance of its wetlands and the functions and services they provide. He said their “complex ecosystems and high biological diversity” play a significant role as agents of shoreline stabilisation and protection.

Further, that in other countries, their high economic value contributed significantly to the livelihoods of families.

The Minister, however, lamented that globally, wetlands are under significant threat, with a high percentage of them being destroyed annually due to a combination of man-made and natural factors.

“Our increased demand for extracted resources, especially those that are non-renewable, has had significant impact, not only on our wetlands, but the important ecosystem services they provide. Hurricanes and drought are being further exacerbated as a result of climate change. Droughts are becoming more widespread and extreme, and there is a trending upwards in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes and cyclones,” he bemoaned.

Dr. Chang warned that the issues and impact of climate change, especially rising sea levels, would have “serious implications” for the survival of wetlands globally. Against this background, he stressed the need to effectively address climate change and its effect on wetlands, “if we are to overcome this crippling phenomenon.”

The Minister noted that the RAMSAR promotes the “wise use” concept of wetlands, primarily entailing the sustainable utilisation of their resources, while maintaining their ecological characteristics. This concept, he pointed out, ensures the long-term sustenance of their resources, which are pivotal to the survival of economies, especially Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

He highlighted two of the seven guiding principles of the country’s National Development Plan, Vision 2030 Jamaica, which relate to sustainability. The first, he informed, regards sustainability in how the country’s resources are used, and the second, in relation to urban and rural development.

Vision 2030 Jamaica is the country’s first long-term national development plan, which aims at enabling Jamaica to achieve developed country status by 2030.  It is based on a comprehensive vision:  “Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.”

“It has long been recognised that the key to our continued survival is hinged on our ability to sustainably use our finite natural resources. The loss of wetlands to development has been an issue for many decades, and we continuously seek to identify mechanisms, which aggressively promote development activities that preserve the ecological characteristics of our wetlands,” the Minister said.

Dr. Chang argued that nations globally must push for eco-friendly developments and sustainable use of wetland resources, while ensuring the functionality of these sensitive habitats.

“Now, more than ever, it is critical that we conserve and protect our wetlands, as the ongoing trend of wetland destruction and conversion is clearly not a sustainable path. We must aim to achieve sustainable use and attain a global conservation equilibrium which will see no net loss and, eventually, recovery of these invaluable resources – wetlands,” Dr. Chang emphasised.

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