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HRH Princess Lalla Hasnaa

February 06, 2012

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Address by Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Hasnaa at the International Symposium on Water and Wetlands in the Mediterranean Agadir – Morocco, February 6 – 8, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honor and a pleasure to welcome today in Agadir, the International Symposium dedicated to Water and Wetlands in the Mediterranean, which coincides with the 40th anniversary celebration of the Ramsar Convention.

Let me first express my sincere thanks to the organizers of this symposium for having chosen Morocco to host the work of this international meeting that HIS MAJESTY KING Mohammed VI, may God glorify him, honored by placing under HIS ROYAL PATRONAGE. Thus, our country's interest in environmental issues is reasserted through our efforts to reconcile the demands of human and economic development with those of sustainable natural resource management.

Your meeting highlights, once again, the strategic issues of water in the Mediterranean, and insistently reminds us of the necessity and relevance of good governance of water resources at various levels, in order to make it a key issue for well being, peace and stability, especially in the south and east of the region.

These universal problems related to water and the uncertainties that accompany them, such as climate change, constitute a major challenge for the Mediterranean countries, which are geoclimatic transition areas prone to various vulnerabilities like water scarcity.

It is our duty to respond, in an innovative and intelligent manner, to the imperative of devoting sufficient water resources for development needs, knowing that there can be no true human development without a permanent guarantee of access to water.

In order to meet these challenges, it is necessary to realize that the time when water was abundant and easily available has become a need to consider, with sound management and measurement of permanent trade-offs, the various needs arising from urban expansion, demographic development, climate change, pollution, and pressures on the coast, especially with the rise of tourism.

In this context, it is now for the Mediterranean countries to foster cooperation and partnership between them, to capitalize on their experience and expertise, so as to derive the best models and identify ways and means for the wetland resources, especially water resources, to be used sustainably.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Wetlands, it must be remembered, are fragile ecosystems that are made more vulnerable by exploiting their natural resources beyond the renewal level that would ensure continuity and sustainability. Evaluation reports, recently published by reputable organizations and scientific experts, clearly show a worrying degradation worldwide. Quantitative and distributive changes in water resources, increased risk of flooding and drought, rising temperatures and reduced water flows are part of a spiral of cause and effect that threatens the balance of aquatic ecosystems and eventually lead to irreversible degradation of these areas and the loss of their economic, social, environmental and ecological functions.

The great challenge which concerns us for the conservation and sustainable management of wetland ecosystems is to ensure consistency between the strategic choices of conservation and resource development of these environments, and our daily needs and immediate interests; In short, this requires a skillfully rendered arbitration on an ecological time scale between present requirements while ensuring future needs. Such a strategy therefore requires an intense, sustained and permanent awareness by all stakeholders through a participatory, holistic, ecosystem approach, while using environmental monitoring instruments based on reliable assessment indicators.

Our operational capacity to act efficiently will flow from this approach, with proactive and adaptive management, where responsiveness adjusts and corrects our procedures and our development models. With this we will have contributed to an effective implementation of the precautionary principle with an ecological perspective while developing responsibility for decision making under uncertainty.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In an international context shaken by serious financial and economic crises, with uncertain and random effects on environmental policy, Morocco is deploying ongoing efforts to balance the demands of economic and human development with a constant concern of preserving and protecting its biodiversity, and to consider the ecological balance of these areas as part of its own convictions and recommendations for international conventions relating to environmental protection. Our country is part of this approach and has acceded to the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Morocco has established the appropriate institutional and legal frameworks and developed environmental upgrading policies and programs.

Environmental issues are a central concern for us and are integrated into our development programs. Water resources, on which this meeting in Agadir is focused, follow a pioneering and proactive policy of mobilizing resources with our retention ability reaching 18 billion m3 with over 130 dams.

A sound demand management accompanies this supply management, through water conservation, agricultural policy, water resource and quality protection, and non-conventional water reuse.

Regarding wetlands, Morocco is characterized by the richness of these ecosystems, of which 84 were classified Sites of Biological and Ecological Interest (SIBE), by the protected areas master plan, and 24 were listed as Ramsar sites. Covering over 200,000 ha, these areas host over 700 species of vascular plants and over 1,400 species of vertebrates.

By ratifying the Ramsar Convention in 1980, our country naturally committed to work for the restoration, protection and sound management of these ecosystems.

As such, Morocco has launched several initiatives to strengthen conservation efforts for wetland biodiversity and promote sustainable local and participative development.

It was consequently adopted to include i) in 2011, the enactment of a law on protected areas, in order to strengthen our country's work and commitment in biodiversity preservation, in alignment with guidelines from relevant international conventions, ii) the finalization of the national inventory of Morocco's wetlands and iii) the drafting of the national strategy for the conservation of Moroccan wetlands.

The National Charter for the Environment and Sustainable Development, the Law on Water, and the Law on Protected Areas constitute the legislative framework needed to ensure effective management of the country's major wetlands, in accordance with the Ramsar Convention guidelines and recommendations. This gives the environmental dimension required to the major National Human Development Initiative (INDH), launched by His Majesty in 2005.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am convinced that this symposium will help to deepen the debate on the issues of water and wetlands and to identify the elements necessary for implementing action programs, as well as the mechanisms and tools, particularly those relating to regional and international cooperation, in order to ensure the sustainability of these fragile ecosystems.

Wishing every success to this symposium and to your work. Let me thank the initiators and organizers of this meeting, while assuring that we remain attentive to the recommendations that are sure to emerge from your discussions.

Thank you for your attention.

 

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