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  • by Trevor Loveday

Scientists call for urgent global funding to restore degraded lakes

Scientists have called for a raft of urgent measures – including a dedicated global fund – to help restore degraded freshwater lakes. The call came in a paper by the World Water Quality Alliance (WWQA) presented at the UN 2023 Water Conference last week. The white paper: Embedding Lakes into the Global Sustainability Agenda advocates the establishment of a Global Coalition to set the international agenda on lake restoration, to draw evidence from practitioners to feed into international policy through the UN, building on a recently adopted United Nations Environment Assembly resolution calling for all countries to protect, conserve, restore and ensure the sustainable use of lakes through their integrated management to safeguard society and nature.

White paper co author, Professor Bryan Spears from the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said: “This scientific assessment shows the many, and growing, pressures affecting lakes from human activity. Long-term and remote monitoring systems to better understand lake health and provide early warning of deterioration are vital. Restoring lakes has an important role to play in reversing biodiversity decline and in supporting communities who rely upon them.”

Co-author, Professor Ken Irvine from IHE Delft, said: “There is currently no global policy specific to lake management, yet many drivers of ecosystem degradation are international in scope and require international leadership… A global policy that integrates lake restoration with biodiversity and climate change is urgently needed.”

The paper draws on a survey of practitioners of lake restoration from 63 countries, who were asked about the challenges they face in restoring lakes and what additional measures are needed.

According to the report, the most common issue facing restoration practitioners globally is nutrient pollution – including phosphorus and nitrogen from agriculture and wastewater. It says pollution from agriculture and wastewater is expected to increase globally in the future to meet growing food demand.

The white paper authors said its proposals look to enhance lake restoration with measures including mobilising policymakers, investment and public support for change and supporting communities in the protection and restoration of the ecosystems on which they rely. It presented four actions for consideration at the UN Water Conference 2023:

  • build capacity in monitoring – this is critical to guide management, but resources to effectively monitor lakes are lacking in some countries;

  • Embed sustainable lake management within national policy

  • foster green finance partnerships – including a Global Green Finance Fund for Lakes and increased funding for disaster response; and

  • raise global awareness of the benefits of change – including establishing a Global Coalition for Lakes which would coordinate action on lakes and connect a global set of practitioners and experts to the international policy community.

The authors of the White Paper suggested that the Global Green Finance Fund for Lakes could mirror the Global Fund for Coral Reefs, which they said, has “catalysed nearly $3bn from global public and private institutions to support low-income countries in protecting their coral reefs.


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