Put Preservation Ahead of Development
What goes around comes around and the environment is no exception.
Destroying the environment for money will come back with even greater financial consequences, this year's Ramsar Award winner for management Denis Landenbergue of Switzerland said. In his interview with The Korea Times, he warned that the hasty development of wetlands could cause even more environmental and financial damage to people.
He used his hometown as an example of how massive multinational companies' industrial facilities dominated the wetlands. ``Back then, I visited the authorities and companies to ask for withdrawal of their decision because the wetland was severely polluted due to the facilities but they wouldn't listen,'' he said.
As time passed the companies were in need of larger space for more facilities. The companies decided to relocate but it wasn't such happy ending, he said. When the municipal government realized the importance of wetland they had to provide incentives for the companies to move. It provided lower costs and partially subsidized their relocation. ``That was our taxes!'' Landenbergue said.
It took more than 20 to 30 years for the habitat to recover and it is still recovering. ``It is a great lesson we should all bear in mind,'' he said.
Landenbergue was aware of Saemangeum's reclamation issues here in Korea. The civic group's cries over the destruction of one of the largest tidal lands in Korea was well heard by many environmentalists in Europe, he said. ``I cannot tell for sure, but I don't think Saemangeum is the only space left for such industrial facilities construction,'' he said.
He said in order to enhance public perception toward wetland preservation, education is extremely important. ``There are tens of thousands of kinds of birds in nature but if you do not know about it, you see them and say `Look, it's a bird!' only,'' he sighed. ``Therefore, you cannot appreciate the importance of it,'' he said stressing education at early stages.
He also sent messages to business groups who are seeking collaboration in the field.
``At the Ramsar Convention, Danone and Evian, both mineral water distributors, have been the main sponsors. They know that in order to get clean water, keeping the environment clean is important. They understand that collaboration is more than simple image making but also a way to survive. I think that will expand to other businesses, too,'' he said.
Landenbergue is a manager for wetlands conservation and freshwater programs at World Wildlife Fund International. Ramsar organizers said his lifelong activities for wetlands and bird conservation and achievements with regard to the designation of Ramsar sites and other protected areas, particularly in Africa, South and Central America and Asia, contributed to his nomination.