Dry truths

THE sixth gathering of the signatories to the Ramsar Convention on the world's wetlands, at Brisbane, Australia recently, has revealed a disturbing picture. California, us, reportedly lost 91 per cent of its wetlands in the past 200 years, more than any other area in the world. In fact, the us, which once boasted of 90 million ha of wetlands, is left with only about 40 million. Said Michael Moser, director, Wetlands Internationals, a conservation group, "The extent of wetland losses in the us makes depressing reading". The group is currently involved in maintaining a database on the world's wetlands. Its current survey shows that France has lost 67 per cent If its wetlands, Italy 66 per cent, Greece 63 per cent and the Netherlands 55 per cent. "We are only just beginning to realise how important these areas are for such things as natural control of floods, maintaining aquifers, filtering out pollutants and preventing salination," says Moser. Wetlands are being lost to dams, agriculture, construction of ports, roads and hydroelectric plants. The conservation group is now urging countries to establish an inventory of wetlands.