UN announces new funds for biodiversity

The United Nations Foundation, (UNF), has announced major new funding to encourage conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity at World Heritage Sites, and also to eliminate arsenic from South Asian drinking water.

The funds were pledged on 25 July at a Rio de Janeiro meeting of the UNF, which oversees the administration of a one billion dollar gift in support of UN causes made by US business man and philanthropist, Ted Turner, and include six million dollars for world heritage sites.

“Working with the UN, we have developed an exciting programme to help protect some of the world’s most important natural resources. By investing in these incredible World Heritage sites, we hope to protect these sites for future generations and work with local communities to demonstrate the economic benefits of conservation,” Turner said.

Six World Heritage sites will receive two and a half million dollars to develop ways of linking sustainable tourism with biodiversity conservation, involving increasing local awareness and support for the sites and encouraging the marketing of tourism to take account of conservation. The six sites selected are: the biosphere reserve and barrier reef of Sian Ka’an and El Viscaino whale sanctuary in Mexico, Tikal National Park, with its Mayan constructions in Guatemala, the biosphere reserve of Rio Platano in Honduras and the Komodo and Ujung Kulon National Parks in Indonesia. The former is famous for its unique giant lizards, the latter as a refuge for the endangered Javan rhinoceros.

An additional two million dollars has also been pledged to improve conservation management effectiveness through better reporting and assessment techniques.

“These projects demonstrate how the UN can work in partnership with NGO’s, local and indigenous communities, and the private sector to address significant threats to biodiversity,” UNF’s president, Timothy E. Wirth commented.

A World Health Organisation campaign to clean up arsenic-contaminated drinking water in Bangladesh (see related story) received a two million dollar boost. The money is expected to benefit 1.1 million of the most severely affected people in 705 villages where tube wells are contaminated naturally. The money will fund communication, capacity building, tubewell testing, patient management and provisioning of alternative water supply options.

Funds totalling $4.2 million have been allocated to carry out a global assessment of ecosystem health, named the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA). The MA will provide information on how changes in the world’s ecosystems will affect human’s ability to meet needs for food, water and health, amongst others, and will be “patterned loosely” on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Significant funding has also been allocated to conserving endangered tiger and rhinoceros species in Nepal.

The UNF has awarded more than $56 million since it was founded in 1997. Environmental donations account for 19% of a total of $300 million pledged to UN causes.

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