The Wise Use of Wetlands

Speech by Anwar Fazal, Chairman, Wetlands International Asia Pacific and Regional Coordinator, Asia-Pacific 2000, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), at the Closing Ceremony of the International Conference on Wetlands and Development, held on 13October 1995 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

International Conferences are like tropical typhoons – they leave behind a trail of uprooted ideas and dashed hopes.

This week’s meeting was different for three reasons

·         It was information rich

·         It was inspiring, and

·         It produced three historic initiatives that lay the foundation for our work into the 21st century.

Firstly, we saw the birth of a global network – Wetlands International.

Secondly, we saw the incorporation of the Asian Wetlands Bureau in Kuala Lumpur.

Thirdly, we saw the development of “The Kuala Lumpur Statement on Wetlands and Development”, a document that provides both the vision and soul for our work to protect, promote and  support the wise use of wetlands everywhere.

Sustainable Human Development, the concept that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) uses to describe “people friendly” and “earth-friendly” policies and programmes, depends so much on this wise use.

A recent study by the Japanese Environment Agency has stated that the fall of all great civilisations is directly related to the lack of sustainable environment policies.

If we do not deal constructively with our environment, the environment will surely deal destructively with us.

The Wetlands are like the wombs of mother earth, the ultimate source of life some will dare say. If you are careless with the wetlands, you are careless with the life of mother earth.

I look forward to working with you in making the wise use of wetlands a reality. I also like to share a poem (author unknown) with you about our need to care for planet earth. It has inspired me and I hope it will inspire you too.

“Harm not the land, nor the waters nor the trees,

for the earth  is the mother of all

And we who abuse her

and poison her now

by abuse and poison  will fall

Harm not the land, nor the waters nor the trees

For water is more

precious than gold,

And our sisters the rivers

bring us new life

Till the warmth of the sun grows cold.

Harm not the land, nor the waters, nor the trees,

for the leaves of the

Forest bring rain

And our brothers the trees are the cradle of life

To destroy them will mark

us with deep pain.


Harm not the land, nor the sea nor the trees,

Though fortunes are to be made,

But a fortune is false

if the soul of the land

is the price that will

have to be paid.

Harm not the land, nor the waters, nor the trees,

For they are not yours or mine,

They belong to the children

of children unborn

From now till

the end of time.”

Thank you.

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