The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has initiated moves to designate more wetlands in the region as heritage parks to boost conservation efforts for this vital ecosystem.
Wetlands, which include lagoons, mangroves, rivers, estuaries and lakes, help improve water quality, provide fish and wildlife habitat and regulate natural disasters, including flooding.
In the Philippines alone, there are at least 342 wetlands that continue to face major threats such as pollution, incompatible tourism activities and climate change, among others.
The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) on Thursday said the bloc plans to revisit the ASEAN Heritage Parks’ (AHPs) existing criteria to be able to include more urban wetlands in its network.
AHPs are protected areas in the region that were recognized for their biological and ecosystem diversity and effective protected area management practices.
Through the AHP program, the ACB supports the declared areas by helping enhance capacity in protected area management, law enforcement and boost livelihood development.
It also opens up possibilities for financial support from the centre’s conservation partners.
Out of the 55 ASEAN Heritage Parks, only nine are wetlands. ACB Executive Director Theresa Mundita Lim has called on governments and international organizations to include wetland restoration efforts in their priorities.
She offered support to Indonesia, the current ASEAN chair, in ensuring the region could counter the effects of climate change through biodiversity conservation.
“The ACB stands ready to support Indonesia in making the region more capable of responding to global concerns including climate change, species extinction and habitat degradation for a sustainable and resilient future—and in realizing this goal, wetlands certainly matter,” she said.
Presently, nearly 2 million square kilometers of lakes, rivers, freshwater swamps, marshes, streams and other inland waters and wetlands can be found in the ASEAN region.