“We save the lakes of the world!” At a ceremony during the 19th World Lakes Conference, which took place from November 7-9 at Lake Balaton in Hungary, 60 lake conservationists from all over the world celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Living Lakes Network.
Coordinated by the environmental foundation Global Nature Fund (GNF), the network facilitates the transfer of knowledge and technology among approximately 100 non-governmental organisations from over 50 countries. Over the past 25 years, the network has carried out countless joint projects, 16 international conferences and extensive lobbying for better protection of lakes and wetlands.
Transnational cooperation for the protection of water bodies
The Living Lakes Network was founded in 1998 with a daring concept: incorporate small non-governmental organisations into a worldwide network as representatives of a lake or wetland in order to learn from each other. By doing so, their local and regional efforts could be fortified, while collectively establishing an influential voice for global water protection.
The founding event took place in November 1998 at Lake St. Lucia in South Africa with activists from Japan, Germany, South Africa and the USA. The network has since expanded to about 100 partner organizations. After 25 years, the need for transnational cooperation to protect lakes and wetlands is as great as ever: “More than 85 percent of the world’s lakes and wetlands have been lost in the past three centuries, and the rate of loss has increased dramatically in recent decades,” says Dr. Thomas Schaefer, Head of Nature Conservation & Living Lakes at GNF.
“This is significantly faster than the tropical rainforest, for example, which is much more talked about – although water ecosystems have indispensable functions for the preservation of an intact environment and also play a decisive role in the fight against climate change as an important carbon sink.”
The achievements of the last 25 years
Over the past 25 years, the partner organisations of the Living Lakes Network have undertaken numerous projects to restore wetlands and improve the sustainable management of lake catchment areas. In Asia, GNF and its partners have planted 3,817,000 tree seedlings, and in Latin America, 20 green filter systems have been built to date – a nature based solution to reduce water pollution by treating wastewater before discharge. Significant financial resources have been acquired by loyal supporters of the network in Germany and Europe alone through the Global Nature Fund and passed on to the projects, especially in countries of the South.
2022 saw the launch of the network’s largest project to date, the “Living Lakes Biodiversity and Climate Project“, funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) as part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). Over 5 years, under the coordination of the GNF, ten partner organizations from twelve countries will implement ambitious measures to protect the lakes and wetlands around their respective lakes – from promoting ecotourism in Tonle Sap, South East Asia’s largest lake, to establishing sustainable aquaculture in Lake Malawi to fight against overfishing.
The United Nations lists the Living Lakes Network and the “Living Lakes Biodiversity and Climate Project” as an official partner of the UN Sustainable Development Goals Partnership Platform.
Networking in politics, raising public awareness
Since 2004, the Living Lakes Network has presented the title “Threatened Lake of the Year” and since 2011 also the title “Living Lake of the Year” in order to raise public awareness of this crucial issue.
“The Living Lakes Network started out informally. And even today it feels like a big family when our partners meet at conferences, for example. This mutual trust is a crucial foundation for collaboration”, emphasized Marion Hammerl, President of the Global Nature Fund and the driving spirit behind Living Lakes from the very beginning, at the ceremony during the 19th World Lakes Conference.
In addition to many Living Lakes members, numerous active members of other lake organizations from politics, science and non-governmental organizations were invited. One conclusion of the evening was that better cooperation between the many organizations is now more important than ever in order to save the lakes of the world.