Remember RamsarThe 10th Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Convention of Wetlands in Changwon, South Gyeongsang, ended yesterday after eight days. The biggest such conference, 2,200 government and nongovernmen representatives from 140 countries gathered and shared their knowledge on how to preserve and utilize wetlands. As host, Korea was able to enhance its reputation by showing that it promotes not only economic development but also preservation of the environment. It was also an opportunity to raise public interest in the environment.
The biggest achievement of the conference was the adoption of the “Changwon Declaration,” which Korea drafted. It stressed that government strategies to deal with climate change should include management of wetlands. It also said when a decision is made on changing how certain areas are used, the importance of wetlands needs to be considered. The conference participants noted that the declaration contributed to upgrading the status of the Ramsar Convention and came up with detailed action plans.
Also notable is the “Rice Paddy Wetland Resolution,” led by Korea and Japan. This became a chance to let the world know the role of rice fields in purifying the environment, storing subterranean water and preserving soil. The resolution is expected to help limit the use of fertilizers and pesticides around the world.
The government should think about how to put the results of the conference into action in preserving wetlands. In this way, Korea can be reborn as an environmentalist country. The government needs solutions and supplementary measures for its wetlands policies, which have been rejected by environmentalists. On July 23, the government approved regional government plans to reclaim coastal wetlands to build shipyards. Such indiscriminate reclamation of wetlands is wrong. The environment should not be sacrificed for economic development. The government should expand wetland preservation areas and Ramsar Convention-registered wetlands. To that end, the government should adopt a “No Net Loss of Wetlands Policy.”
With this conference, we should bear in mind how important it is to find harmony between development and the environment. We need to find ways to sustain development and preserve our environment at the same time. As such, the government’s new “green growth” policy needs to succeed. If the government ignores environmental issues and just promotes growth, Korea cannot develop into a global economic power.