The Policy & Practice of Climate Change & Water

Natural Infrastructure

Guest Blog | Wetland Restoration improves livelihoods in developing cities

Wetland Restoration improves livelihoods in developing cities
by Rob Cadmus (Ramsar Convention Secretariat), Chris Percival (The South Pole Group), and Ania Grobicki (Acting Secretary General, Ramsar Convention Secretariat)


Much of our increasingly urban world takes access to clean water for granted, viewing it as an inexhaustible resource. Yet today, hundreds of millions of people will go without clean water and one out of three people will not have access to proper sanitation (WHO & UNICEF, 2015). In 2010, more urban dwellers were without access to water services than in 2000 (De Castro Zoratto & Ivins, 2015), and it is estimated that by 2050 the global demand for water will increase by 55% (WWAP, 2015). Meeting basic water needs will continue to be a challenge.

As people have migrated from rural areas to urban centers in hope of jobs and education, cities have expanded outwards and in many cases have degraded the waterways and wetlands that surround them, resulting in polluted water with the worst conditions felt by the poor and disadvantaged. This cycle of expansion and degradation is seen throughout the world, but is particularly striking in some of the least developed countries where informal settlements and slums have sprawled faster than basic services. Nearly 900 million people will live in slums by 2020 (WHO & UN-Habitat, 2010), and in developing countries 90% of sewage is discharged untreated into water bodies (Corcoran et al., 2010). In many of these informal settlements, pollution and open sewers contaminate water, resulting in disease and deaths. The UN estimates that approximately 3.5 million people die each year as a result of inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (UN Water, 2013). Further, these populations are often the most vulnerable to natural disasters, food shortages, and the impacts of climate change. Read More...