Rice Paddies Eligible to Be Ramsar Site?
By Park Si-soo
CHANGWON ― The Korean and Japanese governments have joined together to get rice paddies eligible for recognition as Ramsar-listed wetlands.
Delegates of the two states laid a joint resolution on the issue before the Ramsar Convention's meeting Friday. It is to be discussed during Saturday's general meeting, a Korean delegate said.
``Ahead of this convention, many wetlands conservation NGOs and Asian contracting parties showed their strong support of the draft. We expect it to be approved within this convention,'' the official said. ``Rice is grown in at least 114 countries and the size of land used for rice production is measureless.''
The focus of the resolution is on the maintenance and enhancement of the ecological role and value of rice paddies as wetlands systems.
According to the statement, more than 100 designated Ramsar sites around the world include rice-filed habitats and play important ecological roles and support a range of biodiversity, including internationally important populations of breeding and non-breeding resident and migratory birds.
``Except for the time of rice production, rice paddies provide a suitable habitat for many wildlife including migratory water birds which help control weeds and insect pests,'' the resolution said.
It stressed rice fields in many parts of the world have provided large areas of open water for centuries in regions with a variety of rice-growing cultures and also helped to sustain livelihood and human well-being in such regions.
Meanwhile, the two countries pledged that the resolution was not designed to justify conversion of existing natural wetlands into any type of human-made wetlands or inappropriate conversion of land to human-made wetlands.
In the resolution, the two states promised to promote further research to identify the ecological functions of rice paddies and on the cultures that exist within rice-farming communities.
``Research activities will help identify sustainable rice paddy farming practices that reinforce wetlands conservation and improve other ecosystem services such as groundwater replenishment, climate moderation and the conservation of biodiversity,'' the delegate said.