For the last weeks, I have been busy checking fact and figures about wetlands. I learned a lot! Did you know that an oasis is a wetland? And did you know that the average economic value of wetlands is much higher than that of tropical rainforests? That is the finding of the recent “TEEB for Water and Wetlands” report . In case you are wondering: TEEB stands for the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity. Check out the website http://www.teebweb.org
At a global scale, we have unfortunately lost nearly 50% of our wetlands according to estimates by UNEP. As I am Dutch, I can admit that the Netherlands has helped to reach this figure. Most of the Dutch wetlands have been drained or are reclaimed for agriculture and urban development. This photo by Rotterdam City Council in the Netherlands of the most recent addition to the port of Rotterdam illustrates that the work is still going on!
But there are still some particularly amazing wetlands on earth: the Okavango Delta in Botswana, the Pantanal in South America and the Sundarbans mangrove forests of India and Bangladesh to name a few. Rich in biodiversity, stunning scenery, but also the source of lots of other goods and ecosystem services. When my wife and I lived in Botswana in the Eighties, we had the fortune to visit the Okavango a number of times, but the following picture of punters in local canoes waiting for the hippos to appear is not from me, but from Wikipedia!
I have always felt very at ease near a swamp or at a lakeshore or a riverbank, and a recent BBC report suggest that I am not the only one. Studies by the European Centre for Environment and Human Health in Plymouth found that people are more relaxed when they are near a water body, and people living near the coast are statistically healthier than those living inland. This also was manifest in cities, where fountains and ponds appeared to have a positive effect on wellbeing. It reminds me of our house in Bangkok, which was actually built over a pond, in the centre of town. We felt very relaxed in the garden, despite the hustle-bustle of the city around us.