Wetlands’ inhabitants fight back against environmental degradation and climate change
Last week the Netherlands hosted the Climate Adaptation Summit in which world leaders discussed the need to adapt to the rapidly changing climate. While this is without doubt an incredibly urgent matter, I think it is of equal importance that the world's leaders also keep their promises on climate change mitigation measures and the protection of the remaining intact ecosystems. The Covid-19 pandemic has once again showed us that healthy and intact wildlife habitats and ecosystems are vital to the survival of our societies.
Today, on World Wetlands Day, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight the specific importance of wetlands areas for climate change mitigation and also shine a light on the efforts by the organisations Both ENDS works with in South America to protect the La Plata Basin.
Importance of wetlands
Wetlands are one of the most unique and biodiverse ecosystems of the world. They perform two important functions in relation to climate change, as they store carbon and therefore help mitigate climate change. Wetlands also absorb abundant water and this way play a role in adapting to changing rainfall patterns. Despite this vital role in keeping the world's climate and the region's water levels in balance, wetlands are being gravely threatened by environmental degradation through human activity. And it is important to note that in the La Plata Basin, many of these threats can be directly linked to impacts caused by Dutch government policies, Dutch companies and Dutch consumers.
Dutch policy threatens the Pantanal
The Netherlands, being Europe's top importer of soy beans from South America, contributes to the ever-expanding agricultural frontier into the fragile and unique ecosystems of wetlands of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia. This frontier does not only expand through slash and burn tactics of expanding fields, but also through a growing network of infrastructure projects - countless ports, roads, small and large dams - needed to transport the soy beans to the import markets. This infrastructure further exacerbates the already rampant destruction of precious river systems and natural wonders such as the Pantanal wetlands.
Additionally, climate change is already increasingly manifesting itself in the La Plata Basin. In 2020 the region was so affected by drought and human activity that nearly 30% of the unique Pantanal wetland area was destroyed in completely unprecedented series of wild fires.
Local communities protect the wetlands
However, many of the regions populations are fighting back. Not only against the loss of important ecosystems and unique biodiversity, but also against the ensuing loss of local communities' livelihoods through the destruction of valuable fishing areas or tourists spots, as well as the loss of their cultural heritage which is entwined in the health of the rivers and wetlands.
Both ENDS has since 1995 been working together with a coalition of partners towards the goal of protecting the La Plata Basin. Over the past years, in our programme 'Wetlands without Borders' local organisations have mounted political actions for the protection of the ecosystems. But they have also been busy designing methods and practices of livelihood which are in harmony with their natural surrounding. Through embracing new practices specifically adapted to wetlands areas local people are for example supported in building new agro-ecological farms in Bolivia and Brazil, or trained to develop unique 'Wetland honey' in Paraguay. This experience shows that there are plenty of opportunities to mitigate climate change through protection of wetlands without giving up economical or social development.
However, their battle against climate change and environmental degradation can not be won in one country alone. The Dutch government has been doing great strides towards climate adaptation in their own country. So while our local partners are doing whatever they can to protect and restore their own environment, I hope that the Dutch government will do it's part and take responsibility for the impact its trade and import policies and actions cause elsewhere.
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The rising demand for soy is having negative consequences for people and the environment in South America. Both ENDS reminds Dutch actors in the soy industry of their responsibilities and is working with partners on fair and sustainable alternatives.
With our Wetlands without Borders program, we work towards environmentally sustainable and socially responsible governance of the wetlands system of the La Plata Basin in South America.
News / 14 November 2018
Each year on the 14th of November, in the Brazilian city of Cáceres the 'Day of the Paraguay River' (Dia do Rio Paraguai) is celebrated. This tradition started in the year 2000, when civil society mobilized for the first time and successfully campaigned against the construction of the Hidrovía Paraguay-Paraná. Since then, the date symbolizes the close relationship of the people with the river, its culture and the environment.
Large-scale infrastructural projects have detrimental effects on local people and the environment, while their benefits are felt elsewhere. Both ENDS is working to ensure that local people have a greater say in decision-making and is investigating the way these projects are funded.
News / 2 November 2015
The Pantanal, in the heart of South America, at the border of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, is the world’s largest freshwater wetland with an extremely rich biodiversity. Tourism and fishing are the main sources of income for the local population. This enormous natural area is invaluable for the water management of a large part of the continent, stretching all the way down to the Argentinian La Plata area, some 1,500 kilometres away. The area faces many threats and Both ENDS therefore already started actively supporting local organisations striving to protect the Pantanal in 1994.
External link / 19 June 2020
A popular committee succeeded in preventing a licence for a hydrodam in the river Jauquara, Brazil. Building a transnational people's movement to protect the wetland ecosystem: that's what the Wetlands Without Borders programme is all about. "Being connected provides a lifeline for communities."
News / 26 September 2018
Good news from Brazil! The National Water Agency (ANA) has stopped issuing new permits for the construction of hydroelectric dams in the Brazilian Paraguay river basin, which is part of the Pantanal wetlands in South-America. The suspension will last at least until May 2020, after the publication of a comprehensive socio-economic and environmental impact assessment that the ANA started in 2016.
From 2011 to 2015, Both ENDS took part in the Ecosystem Alliance to improve the livelihoods of the poor and create an inclusive economy, through participatory and responsible management of ecosystems.
News / 12 October 2018
After 15 years, the members of the Dutch Soy Coalition have decided to disband the coalition. A total of 16 civil society organisations have worked together for many years to put the negative impact of the production, transport, processing and consumption of soy on the agenda and to seek solutions together with other stakeholders.
Blog / 28 May 2020
The Rio de la Plata Basin in South America extends across Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The livelihoods of the millions of people who live there – city-dwellers, small farmers and fishers, and indigenous peoples – are under pressure from soya cultivation, mining and logging, and by the construction of dams and ports. The COVID-19 crisis is making the situation even worse.
News / 15 November 2018
On Wednesday, November 14, Dutch Newspaper De Volkskrant published a joint op-ed by Both ENDS, Hivos, Greenpeace Netherlands and Witness about the deforestation in the Amazon region which is still going on rapidly, having disastrous consequences for the indigenous people who live in the area, for biodiversity and for the climate. The Netherlands is one of the largest buyers of Brazilian agricultural products such as soy and beef, and should ensure that deforestation, land grabbing and human rights violations do not occur in these production chains. Unfortunately, this is not at all the case yet.
Event / 16 November 2020, 18:30 - 19:30
The Netherlands is a major business partner to Brazil and has not been deterred by the record of human rights' abuses by Bolsonaro's government, nor by the coup d'Etat against the president Dilma Rousseff in 2016. How do the Dutch economic ties with the Brazilian political and corporate elites affect the Brazilian population, in particular indigenous peoples, nature and the global climate?
Press release / 26 August 2020
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Publication / 26 August 2020
News / 16 August 2016
10 songs: that is the result of a 4 day long, 450 km boat trip through the Pantanal with 36 people. The project Pantanal Poética sought and found a new way to look at the Pantanal, a valuable but threatened nature reserve on the border of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay.
News / 13 April 2015
For several decades, Both ENDS has been closely following the developments in this large water area in the centre of South America. We work closely with organisations which aim to ensure that the local population knows about these developments and, if necessary, protect it from these changes. But why is this area both so special and important for the whole of South America? And what exactly is threatening this area? C. Cornell Evers, independent photographer and writer, spoke with Tamara Mohr of Both ENDS and Sander van Andel of IUCN to find answers. The result of this meeting is an interesting interview.
Publication / 2 December 2014
News / 14 March 2021
A number of our colleagues at Both ENDS made a lot of noise at various locations around the country today, as part of the national Klimaatalarm (Climate Alarm) campaign. Annelieke Douma gave a short speech in Haarlem on the major role played by the Netherlands in climate change and environmental degradation beyond our borders. She made a number of suggestions that would immediately make Dutch foreign policy a lot more climate-friendly. Below is the text of her speech.
News / 10 August 2021
As a response to the latest IPCC report, the directors of IUCN NL, Tropenbos International, Wetlands International, Both ENDS and the Institute for Environmental Security wrote an op-ed about the role nature policy can and should play in stopping climate change, which was published in Dutch in De Volkskrant of August 10, 2021. Below, you find the English translation of the article.
News / 15 March 2021
In 2015, the United Nations instigated the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These seventeen interrelated goals are intended to result, by 2030, in a better, fairer and more sustainable world in which no one is left behind. As a member of the UN, the Netherlands is committed to promote the SDGs and every year Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and the central government publish reports on the progress made. The initiators of 'SDG Spotlight Nederland' however believe that there is a need for an annual report on the Netherlands' performance on specific SDGs from a different perspective. Fiona Dragstra and Stefan Schuller of Both ENDS contributed to the report on 2020 and tell us here why they think it is so important.