90% of all disasters are water-related. Changes in climate predict increased intensity in floods and droughts worldwide. Growing water risks threaten food security, economic growth, and urban development.
Peatlands play a major role in global water cycle. They are natural water infrastructure; help collect and hold water during floods and release it during droughts.
Today peatlands are at risk. In Belarus, once rich in peatlands the southern Polesie region became the main target of massive drainage campaign aimed at expanding agricultural lands and increasing the volumes of peat extraction. Human activities along with intensifying climate change result in degradation of peatlands – the condition when they can no longer support the water cycle. The destruction of Polesie peatlands led to devastating spring floods and socio-economic consequences for the local communities.
Restoration of damaged peatlands offers low-cost, low-tech and high-impact option to address disaster risks and improve water cycle.
Belarus is among the world leaders in ecological restoration of degraded peatlands. More than 60,000 ha of inefficiently drained peatlands have already been restored with support from the GEF, the EU, national partners and the private sector.
Returning Belarusian peatlands to healthy condition brings significant environmental and economic benefits where water management and quality is in the top of the list. Belarus’ efforts on peatlands restoration can help save more than 7 billion m3 of fresh water, ensure sustainable water supply for the complex local network of rivers and lakes.
Together with the Coca-Cola Foundation and with the support from the GEF, UNDP helped to restore hydrological regime on 7,800 ha of one of the oldest raised bogs and wetland areas in the region – Yelnya. The area is thought to have more fresh water than in any peatland in Belarus. Experts estimate that that due to the restoration efforts the amount of fresh water in the bog will increase up to 470,000 m3 by 2035. Considering the values of fresh water stored in the peatland and natural water purification Yelnya’s ecosystem services are estimated at US$300 million.