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Green growth and the value of ecosystems

Rational use of water resources and protection of the ecosystem services provided to humans by aquatic environments is an important issue given population growth, exploding cities and the resulting demand for water. Green growth and acknowledgement of the value of ecosystem services are a major priority of the World water forum. Onema has worked extensively during the preparatory phase of the forum on two specific targets for this priority, i.e. economic instruments for better management of water resources and integration of the value of water and ecosystem services in development projects.

Green growth must encourage economic development while protecting natural resources and avoiding environmental damage. The goal is to stimulate public and private investment in innovative technologies that will promote sustainable development and to set up the economic and management tools capable of protecting and restoring aquatic ecosystems.

Determining the value of services rendered by ecosystems is essential to preserving them. Evaluation results, similar to those for the impact of economic activity on aquatic ecosystems, must be included in all development and land-use projects. Standard evaluation techniques exist and must be more extensively used by water stakeholders.

A further objective of the 6th World water forum is to encourage countries to use economic methods in managing water resources. Such tools can help in efficiently managing and equitably distributing the available water resources, reducing demand for water and providing financial income to cover the costs of water services and to restore aquatic ecosystems. A wide array of economic tools exists, including water prices, water funds, payment for ecosystem services, water rights, markets for water rights, etc. However, their effectiveness depends heavily on how they are implemented. Above all, it is important to raise awareness of public decision-makers by informing them on the ecosystem services provided by aquatic environments.

The international group that worked on these issues during the preparation of the forum proposes case studies that serve to explain how these innovative economic instruments operate. Examples are the water funds, public/private funding tools used to protect water resources in Latin America and the Caribbean, and subsidies in Central Asia to improve grazing practices and forest management. The group recommends disseminating the best practices with information on the best implementation techniques. The action plan will draw from the results of the European research programme (EPI water) to analyse implementation of these instruments via 30 case studies from around the world.

The work in this field also drew from the research results published by the Onema scientific council in the document titled "Evaluating the ecosystem services of aquatic environments" and from discussions during the symposium "Economic instruments in the management of water resources in Europe", organised by Onema.


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