The Netherlands must meet its commitment of depoldering Westerschelde

Iturria: Wetlands International

Ede, The Netherlands, February 16, 2012

Wetlands International is calling on the Netherlands to commit to its international obligations for the depoldering of the Hedwigepolder, part of an important delta in the country. Dutch Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, Mr. Bleker, meets Euro commissioner of Environment Janez Potocnik today to discuss this. The delta concerns a vital and unique nature area of international importance that we should safeguard, says the non-profit organization. The depoldering was agreed to compensate environmental damage caused by the deepening of the estuary the Western Scheldt.

See also the Dutch release.
Depoldering important for many plant and animal species
The disappearance of tidal areas in the Western Scheldt can have a huge impact on the more than 100,000 birds in the area, including the grey plover, oystercatcher, bar-tailed godwit and Eurasian curlew (photo) . For as many as 14 species the further degradation of the area may have major consequences for the population.

"The Western Scheldt is an area of international stature," said Jan Ernst de Groot, Chair of Wetlands International. "The mud flats, sand banks and salt marshes together constitute one of the largest tidal areas in Europe. They are of immense importance for a large number of plant and animal species that inhabit the area”.

Concrete commitment
Wetlands International is calling on Secretary of State Bleker to ensure the conservation of this unique international wetland area.

"The Netherlands has committed itself in a European context to protecting these networks of wetlands" continues de Groot. "It has also signed the Ramsar Convention, a global treaty whose mission is to secure internationally important wetlands. By selecting the Western Scheldt as a priority area, the Netherlands has explicitly expressed its ambition to secure the nature values of this Delta".

Also of economic importance for the Netherlands
Depoldering is an important method of environmental restoration which is used worldwide. It serves ecological but also economic and security objectives. In response to impacts of climate change such combined measures – nature and infrastructure – become increasingly important. The Netherlands has already achieved a good international reputation with her Room for the Rivers program. Similar opportunities may be developed to increase water security in the Western Scheldt delta.

"At present, we know that the destruction of natural capital is also economically harmful sooner or later. The new road is not to work against nature but instead work with nature," said Jan Ernst de Groot.

International importance of Western Scheldt
The impact of the deterioration of the Western Scheldt reaches far beyond the Dutch borders: the Western Scheldt is part of a network of wetlands throughout the world, from the Arctic deep into the tropics. Migratory birds use these areas as wintering grounds or as a stopover sites during their long journeys. The decline of one link in the network can harm global waterbird populations and with that the complex dynamics between plants and animals in wetlands around the world. This has far-reaching consequences for both nature and people.

More information:
Pieter van Eijk: +31 318 660929 / pieter.vaneijk @ wetlands.org
Wetlands International Communications Department: +31 318 660912 / +31 6 50601917

See also the Dutch release.

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