Integrating Wetland Economic Values into River Basin Management

Implementing Institution: Unión Mundial para la Naturaleza-UICN Mesoamérica
Administration of Funds and Technical Assistance: Unión Mundial para la Naturaleza–UICN-Suiza
Unión Mundial para la Naturaleza–UICN Mesoamérica
Duration: 3 years
Official Termination Date: December 2005
Address: UICN-Mesoamérica
Moravia, Costa Rica, 100 metros sur Iglesia Católica.
Teléfono (506) 241-01-01
Fax (506) 240 99 34
APARTADO: 0146-2150 Moravia, Costa Rica.
[email protected]

Background and rationale for the project
There has been a growing recognition, over recent years, that wetlands cannot be managed in isolation from other components of their river basins. Several attempts at river basin management have made major steps forward in integrating ecological, hydrological and land-use knowledge and planning. Yet much less progress has been made in understanding the economic linkages between wetland status and wider river basin characteristics — in terms of demonstrating the economic contribution that wetland goods and services make to river basin economies, in identifying basin-wide economic causes of wetland degradation and loss, or in using economic measures to support wetland conservation as an integral part of sustainable development in river basins.

Because such economic tools and linkages have been largely ignored, attempts at wetland conservation have frequently proved difficult to implement, maintain and finance in practice. They also often generate few sustainable development benefits, at local or national levels. There is an urgent need to overcome such omissions if wetland conservation is to be acceptable, equitable, efficient and sustainable over the long-term. This requires that economic concerns are factored into wetland conservation policy, planning and practice. It means ensuring that the full value of wetland goods and services are incorporated into broader river basin development.

A major hindrance to the integration of economic measures into wetland and river basin management has been the fact that there is, as yet, little practical experience of their use. This project is concerned with building capacity, generating methodologies and testing measures to integrate economic techniques and tools into wetland and river basin management — at regional, national and local levels. It will work within the context of new and existing attempts to manage wetlands as integrated parts of wider river basins in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Four demonstration sites have been selected for the project where a clear need has been expressed by partners to identify and enable the application of economic tools, and where wetland management plans are in the process of being developed and implemented. In all a clear need has been expressed to consider economic linkages and concerns — such as the value of wetland goods and services, the economic causes of wetland loss or the potential for economic tools to support wetland conservation and sustainable river basin development. These sites include the Térraba-Sierpe River Basin in Costa Rica, the Lower Mekong Basin (Cambodia, Lao, Thailand and Vietnam) in South East Asia, Rufiji Delta and Floodplain in Tanzania and Walawe wetlands and associated southern coastal lagoons in Sri Lanka. These sites encompass a broad range and representative range of different biological and ecological characteristics, and are subject to different management regimes, stakeholders, socio-economic threats and opportunities. Together they reflect many of the key issues facing wetland conservation and river basin development, and thus have the potential to generate methodologies, experiences and lessons learned which have broad applicability and replicability elsewhere.

More equitable, efficient and sustainable wetland and river basin management resulting from the practical application of environmental economics techniques and measures within conservation and development policy, planning and practice in Africa, Asia and Latin America


  • To increase awareness and capacity among economic and conservation planners, policy-makers and managers to identify and use economic measures for wetland conservation in Asia, Africa and Latin America
  • To generate and disseminate practical and policy-relevant tools and examples of the use of economic measures for wetland conservation
  • To assess environmental economic aspects of wetland and river basin management at key sites in Asia, Africa and Latin America including the identification of wetland values, economic causes of wetland loss, incentives and financing mechanisms for wetland conservation
  • To work with local communities, government and non-government agencies and the private sector to integrate wetland economic values into development and conservation decision-making and to ilot concrete economic measures for wetland management within existing river basin management plans in Asia, Africa and Latin America


  • Training and awareness materials documenting methods, examples and recommendations from the use of environmental economic tools for wetland and river basin management
  • Environmental economic assessments of demonstration sites, resulting in site-specific economic/financial strategies for wetland management
  • Piloting of economic and financial tools for wetland management at demonstration sites
  • Improved awareness of, and capacity to identify and apply, environmental economics tools for wetland and river basin management among development and environmental policy-makers, planners and managers at site and national levels

Over a period of three years the following activities will be implemented:

  1. Preparation of full project proposal with stakeholder consultation: Over a period.of 3 months, a consultative planning process will be undertaken, at demonstration sites, national level and for the overall project. This inception phase will include detailed stakeholder analysis and consultation with local communities, government agencies and NGOs at demonstration sites; of government, NGO and other partners at national levels; and peer review at cross-regional/international level. This inception phase will result in a full project proposal, including detailed activity and output schedule, stakeholder analysis and specification of the roles of project partners, including co-financing.
  2. Production and dissemination of manual of economic tools for wetland and river-basin management: Including sections on methodologies for the environmental economic assessment of wetlands, identification of economic tools for wetland and river basin management, use of economic measures to address specific conservation and development issues, all illustrated by real-world examples of the application of environmental economics techniques and measures to wetland and river basins. This manual would form the basis of training courses to be carried out under activity #4, and would be linked to the formulation of wetland assessments (#2) and financial/economic management plans (#3).
  3. Environmental economic assessment of wetland sites: At each demonstration site, the quantification of the value of wetland goods and services and their distribution, analysis of economic causes of wetland degradation, identification of needs and niches for economic incentives and financing mechanisms.
  4. Integration of economic measures into wetland and river basin management plans: Based on economic and financial measures identified in assessments (activity #2), full financial and economic strategies would be developed and integrated into wetland management plans in the demonstration sites through broad consultation and planning sessions with key wetland managers and stakeholders. A range of innovative economic measures would be piloted at demonstration sites.
  5. Capacity building, training and awareness in environmental economic aspects of wetland and river basin management: Using the training manual (activity #1) and other materials (#5) produced, as well as through assessments (#2) and the implementation of their recommendations (#3), a series of training workshops, awareness seminars and on-the-job learning on economic aspects of wetland management will take place. These will involve both conservation and economic planners, policy-makers and managers, at international, regional, national and site levels.
  6. Production and dissemination of case studies and policy briefs on environmental economic aspects of wetland and river basin management: A series of project publications will be produced and disseminated at site, national and international levels. These will include case studies reporting on assessments (activity #2) and recommended measures (#3); a policy brief series drawing lessons learned from sites and applying them to national, regional and international levels; as well as a range of other technical, training and awareness materials.