Prince Albert draws attention to nature’s plight at Mediterranean Water Forum

In early February, Prince Albert headed for the Tunisian capital of Tunis to open and actively participate in talks being held at the fifth Mediterranean Water Forum.  

A staunch environmentalist known predominately for his actions in favour of ocean conservation and protections, Monaco’s sovereign used the international event as an opportunity to switch the dialogue to the threats facing freshwater ecosystems in the Mediterranean. 

“As we all know, multilateral meetings tend to focus on major water access projects,” said Prince Albert in his opening remarks. “Desalination plants, large-scale water conveyance infrastructures and other technological innovations are all obvious solutions to water scarcity. But these solutions are often costly and energy-intensive, and they overshadow, in these political discussions, the need to preserve the very origin of water, i.e. its natural environment: groundwater, springs, freshwater ecosystems.” 

Endangered and dangerously under-funded

The latest research suggests that over half of the wetlands in the Mediterranean are in peril and at the Donors’ Initiative for Mediterranean Freshwater Ecosystems (DIMFE) side event, a programme launched by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation (FPA2) in 2021, Léa Glâtre from the DIMFE warned of the dangerously low investment in their conservation. 

“A study shows how, in grants across 126 European foundations [and] 13 themes, freshwater projects are among the least funded, with only €16 million granted in 2021,” she told the audience, which included Prince Albert.  

The event, which was held in partnership with MedWET, aimed to remind those present of the imperative nature of preserving and protecting water supplies in the region, and to not lump the area’s specific issues into general discussions on water, echoing Prince Albert’s earlier discourse.  

“Preserving and restoring wetlands is not only our life insurance for the future, but also our main ally in guaranteeing sustainable development for all Mediterranean countries,” counselled another of the event’s key speakers, Anis Guelmami, who is a coordinator at the Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory. 

The Donors’ Initiative for Mediterranean Freshwater Ecosystems (DIMFE) was launched by the Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco in 2021. Photo credit: FPA2

Marianne Courouble, a policy expert at MedWET, also warned that: “The public policies in Mediterranean countries do not sufficiently integrate the approach ecosystems such as wetlands for the extraction, storage, treatment and distribution of water, instead of treatment and distribution of water, instead of grey infrastructure, and the same goes for mitigating climate change.” 

The ultimate conclusion of the Mediterranean Water Forum was the advice that “a holistic approach to water management, cooperation between Mediterranean states, and the mobilisation of international funding are recommended to tackle the crisis”. 

This view was succinctly summed up by a representative of the FPA2, who said, “Freshwater ecosystems must be at the heart of decision-making and management of water resources, seeing them as vital solutions to the crisis.”  


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Photo credit: FPA2