MedWet UNEP MAP Press Conference on the State of the Mediterranean Coasts

MedWet UNEP MAP Press Conference on the State of the Mediterranean Coasts

A press conference was jointly held by MedWet and the UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan  in Athens todayo­n the state of the Mediterranean coasts.  The recently published report ‘A sustainable future for the Mediterranean’ by UNEP MAP was launched for the first time in Athens as well as the assessment of Mediterranean wetlands providing an overview of the environmental trends affecting wetlands in the region.
Marking a new collaboration among the Information and Communications Regional Action Center (Info/RAC) of UNEP MAP and the Rodos Ecofilms Festival the event was an opportunity to announce a series of cultural events taking place during the Festival .
Presentations at the conference were made by Spyros Kouvelis, MedWet Coordinator, Tatjana Hema, UNEP MAP Programme Officer UNEP MAP and Sergio Illuminato, Director General of Info/RAC.

Below is the press release accompanying the event:

With its 46,000 km of mostly rocky shores, the Mediterranean Sea covers o­nly 0.8% of the world’s ocean surface, yet contains 7% of the world’s marine species, states the Report compiled by the UNEP/MAP Observatory for the Mediterranean, Blue Plan.
With an annual growth rate of 1%, it is easy to envisage that by 2025 the population of coastal cities will reach 90 million inhabitants, compared to the 70 million registered in 2000.
Productivity and human development are thriving along the coasts and are gradually changing the shoreline’s morphology: 20,000 kilometres of sandy and rocky coasts, wetlands, estuaries, deltas and coastal ponds have already disappeared from the Mediterranean basin. Concrete has covered 40% of coastal areas, home to 7% of the world’s marine species. These values are destined to rise: by 2025 more than 50% of Mediterranean coasts will be built-up.
The Dossier o­n the State of health of Mediterranean coasts, drawn from the UNEP/MAP Report ‘A sustainable future for the Mediterranean’, was presented in Athens today by INFO/RAC, the Information and Communication Centre of UNEP/MAP, the Mediterranean Action Plan of UNEP and MedWet – the Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative of the Ramsar Convention.
In addition to the ecological, social and cultural value of natural coastal areas, the report also carries out a cost/benefit analysis of preserving the coastal environment. The study asserts that, in Europe, a square kilometre of coastal wetland is worth 2.4 million euros per year. The value has been defined taking into account the environmental services offered by these delicate areas such as water purification, flood containment, contribution in maintaining fish stocks and tourism.
«The Mediterranean Region is included among the 25 world hotspots of biodiversity conservation – declared Sergio Illuminato, Director General of INFO/RAC. In 1999 the 21 Mediterranean Countries signed a Protocol for the Conservation of Biodiversity, encompassing 150 marine protected areas. o­ne third of these areas are located in open waters. The strategic action Plan for Biodiversity, SAP-BIO, aims at increasing 50% of the surface covered by marine protected areas in the Mediterranean by 2012, and to attain the protection of 20% of the coast as marine fishery reserves. The complex threats to Mediterranean Coastal Zone call for a wide range of responses from both private and public sectors and the implementation of national and regional programmes for public participation».
«Coastal wetlands appear to be under the most direct and intensive pressure for degradation – said Spyros Kouvelis, MedWet Coordinator – The assessment undertaken by the Ramsar Convention and MedWet shows that wetlands located o­n the coastal zone have deteriorated more over the past decade and are currently in a worse state than are inland wetlands. This is being driven especially by urban, industrial and infrastructure developments, including tourism, from industry and agglomerations and intensive agriculture and fertilizers and pesticides run-off – drivers which seem to be intensifying o­n both North and South Coasts of the Mediterranean».
Currently 584 cities, 750 yacht harbours, 286 commercial ports, 13 gas plants, 55 oil refineries, 180 power plants, 112 airports and 238 water desalinization plants are found along the Mediterranean coasts and, according to the report A sustainable future for the Mediterranean 5000km will be lost to urbanization unless immediate remediation steps are taken.
Strengthening policies for coastal zone management, in compliance with the Strategic Action Plan and the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (MSSD), promoted by UNEP/MAP, as well as the guidelines o­n wise use of wetlands developed by the Ramsar Convention could help restore the ecology and landscape of 4000km of urbanized coasts between now and 2025. Thus, about o­ne-sixth of the Mediterranean coastline would be rescued, compared to the predicted baseline scenario.
At the event, INFO/RAC, the Information and Communication Centre of UNEP-MAP, together with MedWet have announced that they have joined forces significant educational and cultural initiatives in the region, focused o­n the protection and conservation of the Mediterranean natural resources.
The Rodos International Films and Visual Arts Festival, organized for the sixth year in the Greek island o­n 20-25 June 2006, is member of the Environment and Sustainable Development Network of INFO/RAC-MAP. The Rodos Festival is o­ne of the key events leading to the Mediterranean Environmental Award, planned to be held in Turkey next September with the active participation of Ecofilms and other MEA partners for the promotion of sustainable development in the Mediterranean.

A story o­n the conference was published in the English version of Kathimerini o­n 21 June, by Harry van Versendaal and circulated inside the Herald Tribune in Greece and Cyprus. It is available here

Updated on 6/22/2006 5:10:50 PM.