World Wetlands Day is celebrated internationally each year on 2nd February to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance that was ratified in Ramsar, Iran, on 2nd February, 1971.
Wetlands play an important role in helping to provide communities with resilience to natural hazards such as flooding caused by storms, cyclones, storm surges and tsunamis. Under projected climate change scenarios, extreme climatic events, including floods, droughts and storms are expected to increase in frequency and intensity.
Unfortunately, wetlands are often viewed as wasteland, and more than 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900. World Wetlands Day is an annual opportunity to raise public awareness and promote the value of wetlands.
RCMRD joined the rest of the world in marking this day with the theme “Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future”.
Experts say Wetlands act as a natural sponge, absorbing and storing excess rainfall and reducing flooding. During the dry season, they release the stored water, delaying the onset of droughts and reducing water shortages.
The theme for this year is meant to highlight the impacts of urban development to wetlands such as habitat loss due to development and pollution due to garbage and sewerage discharge. The theme will help to promote the wise use of wetlands as a means of achieving a sustainable urban future.
Healthy wetlands play a vital role in urban areas such as slowing floodwater, cooling effects in hot temperatures, improving water quality as well as providing urban green space.
The sustainable use of water and wetlands, by protecting the services they provide, is critical to enable society to achieve sustainable social and economic development, adapt to climate change and improve social cohesion and economic stability. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a universal agenda that, for the first time, recognizes the need for restoration and management of water-related ecosystems, including wetlands, as a basis for addressing water scarcity and water risks. Wetlands are a solution for several key challenges around the world related to water, food and climate, and key to meeting the SDGs. Most of the SDGs are relevant in some way or another to wetlands, but the following are of particular importance:
Goal 2: Zero hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. 70 % of all fresh water extracted globally is used for crop irrigation.
Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all Wetlands ensure fresh water, help replenish ground aquifers, and purify and filter harmful waste from water – such as fertilizers and pesticides, as well heavy metals and toxins from industry.
Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities- Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Wetlands act as natural sponges absorbing rainfall, providing protection against coastal and river flooding to (partially) offset the need for man-made infrastructure. They also help reduce drought, protect coastal areas for fisheries nurseries and regulate sediment transport thereby contributing to land formation and coastal zone stability.
Goal 13: Climate Action - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts Wetlands act as carbon sinks. Peatlands alone store more than twice as much as all the world’s forests. Coastal wetlands reduce the impact of rising sea levels, acting as storm surge buffers and providing erosion control.
Goal 14: Life Below Water - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. Without wetlands, the water cycle, carbon cycle and nutrient cycles would be significantly altered. Water cycles, essentially the continuous movement of water on, above and below the surface of the Earth, are of critical importance to biodiversity and to the functioning of virtually all terrestrial and coastal ecosystems. Coastal wetlands are important for sustaining seas and marine resources, for example as nursery grounds for many marine fisheries.
Goal 15: Life on Land - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss. The values of benefits provided by wetlands, per unit area, have been consistently shown to be orders of magnitude higher than for other ecosystems with the major benefit delivered through improving water security.