World Environment Day – does it ring any bells? It’s a day established by the United Nations more than 40 years ago to celebrate our incredible natural world. Every year, 5 June is set aside to raise awareness and take positive action to protect our planet.
It may have passed you by this year if you were focused on Wearing it Wild – but that in itself was positive action for the environment.
A day becomes a week
One of the great thing about Word Environment Day is it seems to be a trigger to escalate activities and awareness beyond the designated day. Across Mato Grosso, Brazil’s third largest state, where we are working on the Pantanal Pact, that is exactly what’s happening. Many different organisations are focused on an environment week!
Of particular interest is the Environment Week organised by the Mato Grosso’s government, which is focused on 21st century challenges – water, soil and light. For WWF it’s all about the water. If you’ve read any of my previous blogs you’ll know the efforts that we’ve put into mobilizing organisations – governmental, private sector and civil society – to realise the value of this precious resource and take action to protect it in their localities. To this end, organisations have been coming together to create the Pantanal Pact.
The essential route of water
Across 25 municipalities in Mato Grosso, the springs produce streams that flow into three key tributaries (Jauru, Sepotuba & Cabaçal) of the Paraguay River. The Paraguay River in turn flows down the incredible Pantanal wetland in the floodplains below. Accumulatively we are talking about 747km of river, which produce 30% of the water that feeds the Pantanal and is the life support not only for the communities and businesses in the region, but also for the vast array of wildlife and ecosystems in the world’s biggest wetland.
Signing the Pantanal Pact
Today, to mark the start of the Environment Week, activities are being kicked off by a big event in Cuiabá, Mato Grosso’s capital – a call to action for organisations to sign the Pantanal Pact. We cannot be sure of exactly how many organisations will commit today, but we do know that the government of Mato Grosso will be signing up and we expect to see a number of the mayors from the 25 municipalities where we have been working also committing, along with a key organisation that works with agricultural business to promote greener, sustainable farming practises.
This is a significant milestone for the programme (part of the HSBC Water Programme), which has spent over two years advocating for the need to conserve the local water resources. 72 organisations locally have been championing the Pantanal Pact movement. Their buy in has been essential to reach this point which has allowed us to leverage the endorsement of the state government. Local celebrities are also supporting the effort. Nico & Lau the most famous comedians in the region will be participating in today’s event. Nothing like a bit of celebrity endorsement to increase visibility, awareness, and foster wider support for the Pact. In the last weeks their voices have featured in radio promotions and they have appeared on posters and in a video citing the importance of water conservation and the Pantanal Pact. Their presence will surely encourage extra interest in the event.
What does signing the Pact mean?
We are keen to see as many signatures on the Pact as possible, that goes without saying. The organisations involved in the movement have jointly identified 34 priorities that need to be addressed to conserve their water resources. These fall under five categories:
- Capacity building, training for the municipalities on environment protection and sustainable development
- Sanitation and waste management
- Land use planning and restoration
- Sustainable financing (including payment for ecosystem services)
- Integrated water basin management and governance
With their signature, each organisation will commit to a minimum of three priorities under these themes, choosing those that are achievable and relevant for them. In the long term we need to ensure that organisations stay true to their commitments. Signatures to a Pact are important, but more important still are the actions that come as a consequence. A pact claiming conservation of springs and rivers is not worth the paper it’s written on if there is no tangible follow up!
Today’s event is the result of a lot of hard work, but it does not end here. For now though, to launch Mato Grosso’s Environment Week I think we have reason to raise a glass or two (of water) in celebration of the support we’ve garnered to date to safeguard the Pantanal. We are another step closer to reaching our goals in this region. This is will not be the only opportunity for organisations to sign, but will hopefully act as a springboard for more municipalities and organisations to get committed to protect their water resources.