«RunningPure A research report by the World Bank / WWF Alliance for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Use Running Pure Running Pure: The importance ...»
The importance of
forest protected areas
to drinking water
A research report by the World Bank / WWF Alliance for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Use
Running Pure: The importance of forest protected areas to
A research report for the World Bank / WWF Alliance for Forest Conservation
and Sustainable Use Written and edited by Nigel Dudley and Sue Stolton With major research and contributions by Rachel Asante Owusu, Ahmet Birsel, David Cassells, José Courrau, Lawrence Hamilton, Sedat Kalem, Wang Luan Keng, Leonardo Lacerda, Yıldıray Lise, Stefano Pagiola, Sara Scherr and Claudio Sericchio Published August 2003 ISBN 2-88085-262-5 © World Bank/WWF Alliance for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Use Cover design HMD, UK 1 Running Pure Preface Three years ago, WWF and IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas organised a conference on management effectiveness of protected areas in Bangkok. One of its major conclusions was that, if protected areas are to be maintained in the long term, their essential roles and broader services, beyond biodiversity conservation, need to be emphasised. Many governments are finding it increasingly difficult to justify the maintenance of protected areas, if the wider benefits for local communities and the society at large cannot be demonstrated.
This report represents an early attempt to develop wider arguments for protection, focusing on one narrow but important issue − the potential role of protected areas in helping to maintain water supply to major cities.
It is a good time to look at the links between water and protected areas. The United Nations has proclaimed 2003 as the International Year of Freshwater, to help promote new and existing water resource initiatives. IUCN’s World Parks Congress (WPC) in September 2003 provides a once-in-a- decade global focus on protected areas and their importance. The role, definitions, boundaries and management of protected areas are receiving particular attention from governments and non- governmental organisations, corporate bodies and development agencies. Two key issues have been prominent in the discussions leading up to the WPC: the need to stress the arguments for protected areas away from a narrow focus on biodiversity into other values (the congress is named Benefits beyond Boundaries) and the importance of securing enough resources to manage protected areas effectively. The links between protected areas and drinking water thus touches some of the most central natural resource management issues in the world today.
Water, as we shall show, provides a powerful argument for protection. Through payment for environmental services it can also help to defray the costs of managing protected areas if, as is increasingly the case, governments introduce charges for pure water coming from forests protected by the state.
Dr Claude Martin Director General WWF International
Melbourne, Australia; Istanbul, Turkey; Singapore; New York, 74 United States of America; Caracas, Venezuela; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Executive summary Well managed natural forests provide benefits to urban populations in terms of high quality
Well managed natural forests almost always provide higher quality water, with less sediment and fewer pollutants, than water from other catchments Some natural forests (particularly tropical montane cloud forests and some older forests) also increase total water flow, although in other cases this is not true and under young forests and some exotic plantations net water flow can decrease Impacts of forests on security of supply or mitigating flooding are less certain although forests can reduce floods at a local headwater scale As a result of these various benefits, natural forests are being protected to maintain high quality water supplies to cities Protection within watersheds also provides benefits in terms of biodiversity conservation, recreational, social and economic values However, care is needed to ensure that the rural populations living in watersheds are not disadvantaged in the process of protection or management for water quality
Maintaining high quality water supply is an additional argument for protection:
Many important national parks and reserves also have value in protecting watersheds that provide drinking water to towns and cities Sometimes this is recognised and watershed protection was a major reason for establishing the protected area – here watershed protection has sometimes bought critical time for biodiversity, by protecting natural areas around cities that would otherwise have disappeared In other cases, the watershed values of protected areas have remained largely unrecognised and the downstream benefits are accidental Where forests or other natural vegetation have benefits for both biodiversity and water supply, arguments for protection are strengthened with a wider group of stakeholders In some cases, full protection may not be possible and here a range of other forest management options are also available including best practice management (for example through a forest management certification system) and restoration
The watershed benefits of forest protected areas could help to pay for protection:
The economic value of watersheds is almost always under-estimated or unrecognised It is possible to collect user fees from people and companies benefiting from drinking water to help pay for the catchment protection benefits provided by protected area management – although only in certain circumstances Payment for water services can also be one important way of helping negotiations with people living in or using watersheds to develop land-use mosaics that are conducive to maintaining high quality drinking water supplies
Many of the world’s largest cities rely on drinking water from protected areas:
Around a third (33 out of 105) of the world’s largest cities obtain a significant proportion of their drinking water directly from protected areas At least five other cities obtain water from sources that originate in distant watersheds that also include protected areas In addition, at least eight more obtain water from forests that are managed in a way that gives priority to their functions in providing water Several other cities are currently suffering problems in water supply because of problems in watersheds, or draw water from forests that are being considered for protection because of their values to water supply
Rationale for the project Forests and freshwater systems interact in many different ways: through soil stability and sediment load; fisheries and fish hatching; the impacts of different tree species on acidification of water;
mitigation of incidence and severity of flooding from headwater catchments; management of downstream water logging and salinity; influencing the availability of water for irrigation systems;
maintaining the quality of water for industrial purposes; and so on. Issues relate to the presence of forests, forest type, management systems and choices relating to afforestation and reforestation. Many of these interactions are complex and their precise nature and significance remains the subject of debate between hydrologists, natural resource economists and ecologists.
In the following report we focus on one specific interaction: the role of forests, and particularly protected forests, in maintaining quality of drinking water for large cities.
There are many reasons for this focus: many city dwellers already face a crisis of water quality, and contaminated water spreads a vast and largely unnecessary burden in terms of short and long-term health impacts including infant mortality, with knock-on effects on ability to work, industrial productivity and on already over-stretched health services. The poorest members of society, unable to afford sterilised or bottled water, suffer the greatest impacts. Similar problems affect the rural poor as well of course, and sometimes these can be even more severe. However, in a rapidly urbanising world the scale of the problem facing cities is particularly acute1.
The issue also seems one of particular relevance to the World Bank-WWF Alliance and its targets on increasing extent and effectiveness of forest protected areas and extent of well-managed forests outside protected areas*. Given that both organisations also have extensive freshwater programmes, and the World Bank has a large portfolio of projects looking specifically at drinking water, linking the forest targets with water catchments is a logical next step in developing cooperation between the two institutions. In addition, the third element in the WWF Forests for Life programme is forest landscape restoration, an issue currently not addressed by the Alliance; one important driver for forest restoration is the need to restore functioning watersheds, so that drinking water could also provide the means for the Alliance partners to extend their work into restoration issues.
2003 has been proclaimed by the United Nations, the International Year of Freshwater, providing a platform for promoting existing activities and spearheading new initiatives in water resources at the international, regional and national levels. Currently one person in six lives without regular access to safe drinking water, and 2.4 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation. Water related diseases kill a child every eight seconds. The global focus on water is intended to accelerate implementation of the targets in the UN Millennium Development Goals, and those set by the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, to: develop integrated water resources management and water efficiency plains by 2005; halve by the year 2015 the portion of people who are unable to reach or afford safe drinking water and who are without access to basic sanitation; and achieve by 2010 a significant reduction in the current rate of loss of biological diversity.
There is another specific reason to focus on forest protected areas at the moment. The occurrence of the World Parks Congress (WPC) in September 2003 provides a rare global focus on protected areas.
The role, definitions, boundaries and survival of protected areas will get particular attention from governments and non-governmental organisations, corporate bodies and development agencies.
* The Alliance targets are, by 2005, to have created 50 million hectares of new forest protected areas around the world, increased management effectiveness on 50 million hectares of existing protected areas and developed independent certification of good forest management on 200 million hectares of managed forest by working with governments, the private sector and civil society.
5 Running Pure
Two key issues have come to the fore in the discussions leading up to the WPC: the need to extend the arguments for protected areas away from a narrow focus on biodiversity into other values (the whole congress is named “Benefits beyond Boundaries”) and the need to find sustainable funding to manage protected areas effectively. Water, as we shall show in the following report, provides a powerful argument for protection in many cases. Through payment for environmental services, it can also help to defray the considerable costs of management if, as is increasingly the case, governments and other forest owners introduce charges for pure water coming from forests protected by the state. Indeed, privately managed protection forests are also starting to emerge in some parts of the world.
There was also a desire by the research team to move away from an over-reliance on case studies to argue a particular point of view. Specific case studies relating to the link between forests and freshwater have been well documented and frequently repeated and have certainly helped create interest in the issue. But how representative were these of the situation in most countries and most cities? We wanted, as far as is possible in a brief research project, to supply some statistics about how important forests are to urban water supplies. We therefore looked at the world’s top 100 cities† and provided an overview of how many relied on water from protected areas for some or all of their drinking water supply.
What appeared initially to be a fairly simple question became more complex in its unravelling. Finding the information proved a challenge, but also revealed many layers of complexity. What exactly constituted a forest protected area? We had assumed official protected areas, as designated by IUCN The World Conservation Union, but found many other categories of protection, some specifically aimed at watershed protection and often with their wider values only poorly understood. In some catchments (for example around Beijing), “protection” actually means integrated management, with special controls on the type of farming and other land uses rather than on protecting forests. Not all forests set aside for catchment protection also have high biodiversity values. In some areas, governments recognise the need for restoration, or have reforestation projects already underway in important catchments. It has also become clear that the role that some official protected areas play in watershed management is barely recognised by either protected area managers or water authorities.
This wider picture mirrors the development within the Alliance as well. At present, WWF is consciously attempting to integrate its work on forest protected areas, good forest management outside protected areas and forest landscape restoration into a protect-manage-restore approach at landscape level, working in priority conservation landscapes selected by an ecoregional planning process.
Therefore while the main focus of the current report remains on forest protected areas, issues of management and restoration are also addressed and feature in the policy recommendations.