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30 January 2019, 19:13

Belarus to pass wetland law in mid-2019

MINSK, 30 January (BelTA) – The law on protection and use of wetlands in Belarus is to be adopted in the middle of 2019, head of the biology and landscape diversity department at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Belarus Nikolai Svidinsky told a press conference timed to World Wetlands Day, BelTA has learned.

“Being fully aware of the importance of our wetlands, the head of state and the government authorized the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection to initiate the development of a draft law on protection and use of wetlands. The draft law was scrutinized and harmonized in 2018. It is expected to be adopted in June-July 2019,” Nikolai Svidinsky said.

The document consists of nine chapters and 45 articles. It lays out a strategy for protection and sustainable use of wetlands. The draft law takes stock of international practices, determines the scope of authority of officials and government agencies, and sets forth rights and responsibilities of land users. “We are not saying that the law will put an end to all kinds of activities. However, these activities will be clearly regulated,” he noted.

Peat bogs are important for the country's manufacturing sector and agriculture. The peat industry makes a significant contribution to energy and economic security of Belarus. However, unsustainable economic operations and a number of other activities bring about environmental issues, like degradation of wetlands, extinction of certain species of wild animals and plants, soil health deterioration and other challenges.

According to Nikolai Svidinsky, there are legal instruments in Belarus regulating wetland protection and use. However, a single document is needed to ensure comprehensive implementation of wetland regulations.

World Wetlands Day is marked annually on 2 February when the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (the Convention on Wetlands) was adopted in Iran in 1971. Belarus joined the Convention on Wetlands in 1999.

Belarus is home to about 10,000 lakes and nearly 11,000 rivers, while peat bogs cover 11% of the country's territory, or over 2.3 million hectares. Twenty six wetlands with a total area of 779,000 hectares are featured in the Ramsar List.

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