Plenary Talk by Dr Ritesh Kumar at the Annual Meeting of Society of Wetland Scientists

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Dr Ritesh Kumar was invited to deliver a plenary talk on “Wetlands Wise Use: Reframing for Multiple Worldviews” at the Annual Virtual Meeting of the Society of Wetland Scientists being held from 1 – 3 December 2020. The theme for this year’s meeting was “Wetland Connections Over 40 Years”.

The summary of the talk is given below:

In 2021, the Ramsar Convention will be marking the 50th year of one of the oldest multilateral environmental agreements on a single ecosystem, the wetlands. At the heart of the Convention is the wise use philosophy, which, at the time of adoption of the Convention text in 1971, marked a novel framing of human-nature interdependency as the basis of delivering conservation as well as sustainable development outcomes. Wise use of wetlands is defined in the text of Ramsar Convention as “maintenance of ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development”. While wise use has a broader connotation, ecological character has been defined in a narrow sense, mostly aligning with stationarity, and relegating humans as external agents behind adverse changes in ecosystem. Managing wetlands in this era of rapid human-mediated transformation requires analytical approaches which consider integrated systems of human and nature as a unit of analysis, overcoming the human-nature dualism which has underpinned conservation approaches thus far. There is emerging scholarship which encourages a coupled view of ecological and social systems, as an alternate to framing of nature as setting context for human interactions, or human enterprise as an external disturbance acting upon ecosystems. In this talk, an alternate framing of wetland wise use and wetlands character was discussed, proposing replacement of wetland ecological character by an inclusive term ‘wetland character’ as a manifestation of a plurality of values and multiple worldviews. Wise use consequently becomes the maintenance of wetland character.