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The face of today

August 11, 2010

(Source: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com)

Mohammed Nawaz hangs on a moving raft before being rescued by the Pakistani Army in Sukkur, Pakistan on the 10th of August 2010. Pakistan is suffering from the worst floods in eighty years. The floods have already killed 1,500 people and displaced millions.

Despite the recent floods, Pakistan once a water-surplus country is now a water deficit one. According to WWF Pakistan, the situation in Pakistan indicates that the country is approaching conditions of chronic water-stress, facing sever water-related issues, such as:

– devastating effects due to the variability in rainfall levels and drought on agriculture, rangelands, wetlands

– ecosystem degradation in the Indus Delta due to sea-water intrusion

– reduction in reservoir capacity due to sedimentation – Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma are expected to lose 25% of their storage capacity by 2010

– threat to the population of freshwater-dependent species due to shrinking rivers and poor water quality.

The concept of ecosystem services was intended to help conservationists show the benefits of ecosystems for human well-being, but services are not yet seen to truly address human needs with current approaches focusing mostly on financial gain. Promoting development strategies that integrate conservation and service protection is essential.

Gary W. Luck et al. in their letter “Protecting ecosystem services and biodiversity in the world’s watersheds”, describe how they developed the first prioritization scheme for protecting ecosystem services in the world’s watersheds and compared their results with global conservation schemes. They found that by explicitly incorporating human need into prioritization strategies, service-protection priorities were directly focused on the world’s poorest, most densely populated regions. Watersheds in Southeast Asia and East Africa were found to be the most crucial priorities for service protection and biodiversity conservation.

Emphasizing human need is a substantial improvement over the money-based ecosystem-service valuations that undervalue the requirements of the world’s poor. Such approaches offer great hope for reconciling conservation and human development goals.

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