Feature Story

One of the GEF’s flagship efforts to promote an integrated (Ridge-to-Reef) approach to watershed and coastal area management is Integrating Watershed and Coastal Areas Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States (IWCAM), which was implemented by UNEP and UNDP from 2006 to 2012.

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The Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem encompasses a marine area of over 6 million km2 between India and Indonesia. It contains important tracts of the world’s most vulnerable marine habitats, including 12% of the world’s coral reefs, 8% of the world’s mangroves, extensive seagrass beds, and large estuaries, which together support some of the most productive fishing grounds on the planet.

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This story started in 1992, when UNDP invited me to lead a project team for a proposed GEF-financed project on marine pollution prevention in the seas of East Asia. This turned out to be the catalyst for a vibrant collaboration among governments, private institutions, researchers and citizens to safeguard the oceans and coasts of South East Asia.

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The International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem on 26 July aims to raise awareness of the valuable services provided by mangrove ecosystems. From Indonesia to Madagascar and Honduras, the GEF has invested in many projects that recognize the value of mangroves in protecting our environment. 

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“I have been a widow for many years, so caring for my children has weighed heavily on me. For women like me, even when our own children are grown up, we have our grandchildren to look after and feed, because their parents go to the towns to look for work – there is no other work for them here. The mothers come back home to the village when it is time to have their babies, and then we care for the children when the mothers go back to the city.

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“I have been involved in the fisheries sector in one capacity or another all my working life. So I have had a long period over which to observe and experience, from different perspectives, the issues that affect the fisheries sector in the Western and Central Pacific. The story I have to tell is one of ‘David and Goliath’ in the fisheries world – it is a story of transformational change in fisheries management, involving Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and the wider powers of global fisheries operators.

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Indonesia has nearly one-eighth of the world’s coral reefs, some 75,000 km2. Coral reef ecosystems serve as essential habitat for many commercially valuable fish species. Coral reefs support artisanal subsistence fishing, commercial fisheries, aquaculture, live reef fish for food industry, recreational fishing, aquarium/marine ornamental trade, and the curio and fashion industries. Coral reef ecosystems account for 30% of Indonesia’s GDP and generate employment for about 20 million people in 67,500 coastal villages (ADB, 2012a).

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The South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand Large Marine Ecosystems are two of the richest shallow water marine biodiversity hotspots in the world. These LMEs contain over 300 hard coral species, 3365 fish species, 45 mangrove species, and nearly two million hectares of mangrove forest — 12% of the world’s total (GEF, 2010). Nearly one-third of the approximately 350 million inhabitants living in the region are dependent on fisheries or marine-related services.

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“In 1988, William Conway, then General Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, wrote a chapter in a popular book under the title “A Cold Sea River”. In it, he described the spectacular concentrations of wildlife on the coast of Patagonia in Southern Argentina – including the Magellanic penguins, southern elephant seals, South American sea lions and southern right whales – and he wrote about the mighty Falklands-Malvinas marine current, the ‘cold sea river,’ that is the lifeblood of the Southwest Atlantic ecosystem that nourishes this rich biological diversity.

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After the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet railway in 2006 the rapid increase in tourism in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau caused a significant increase in waste generation. This threatened both the grassland ecology of the plateau and the water quality of the Yangtze River. In an investigation, conducted by the Green River Environmental Protection Association, to study waste disposal and pollution trends at the source of the Yangtze River they found that waste was primarily thrown away or burnt in the open air.

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