(Updated February 2014)
The 2nd of February each year is World Wetlands Day (WWD), marking the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The Convention on Wetlands, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
There are presently 168 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 2,171 wetland sites, totalling 207,291,271million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. The WWD Commemoration Activities involve government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the various groups of citizens at all levels of the community have taken advantage of the opportunity to undertake advocacy actions aimed at raising public awareness of the importance of wetland ecosystems by highlighting their inherent values and benefits through short and long conservation management programme activities.
Advocacy on Wetlands (Public Awareness and Education)
There has been notable progress in the area of public awareness and education activities undertaken by the SNTC, the Swaziland Environment Authority (SEA), Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy, etc. This activities are similar to the Convention’s CEPA Programme.
Other notable supportive efforts include the enactment of favourable legislation (Water Act, 2010). This Act declares the water resource derived in wetlands of Swaziland to be a national resource; establishes River Basin Authorities which will help in enhancing public (stakeholder) involvement in water resources management, including the private sector; pollution control and catchment management. These provisions will hopefully go a long way to ensure the protection of water sources and the wetland habitat.
Economic incentives and disincentives favouring wetlands habitat wise-use (for example, tax deductions for selling or donating wetlands to a qualified organization, cooperative programs, and acquisition (for example, establishing national wildlife refuges) are key to ensuring the protection of our scarce wetlands. Beyond that level, a number of regulations can be set up to control activities in wetlands, and some counties and towns have adopted local wetlands protection ordinances or have changed the way development is permitted. There are countries that have significantly reduced losses of coastal and inland wetlands through protective laws. Local Governments can also have non-regulatory programs that help protect wetlands.
What can we do for wetlands?
Since its inception, the Ramsar Convention has been a pioneer in promoting the "wise use concept" for managing wetlands. This concept is an integrated vision of ecosystem management, in the same way that the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, Rio, 1982) developed, some years later, its ecosystem approach. The wise-use concept recognizes the necessity to manage wetlands in an integrated way, including not only ecological aspects, but recognizing also the human, social, institutional, economic and cultural aspects of wetlands, in order to use wetlands sustainably for the benefit of mankind in a way compatible with the maintenance of the natural properties of ecosystems. The wise-use approach promotes the use of ecosystems' goods and services for human purposes in a way that respects natural equilibrium and allows ecosystems to survive and adapt to change.
The ability of wetlands to adapt to changing conditions, and to an accelerating rate of change, will be crucial to communities and wildlife everywhere as the full impact of climate change and other global alterations to our ecosystem lifelines are felt.
At the individual level, how can you make a difference?
- Get involved find out where wetlands exist near your home, try to learn more about them, and support educational efforts.
- Support wetlands and watershed protection initiatives by public agencies and private organizations.
- Participate in the public scoping meeting before the initiation of developmental projects and by reviewing the Environmental impact Assessment documents at the public review stage and submit your comments.
- Encourage neighbours, developers, and state and local governments to protect the function and value of wetlands in your watershed.
- Rather than draining or filling wetlands, seek compatible uses involving minimal wetland alteration, such as waterfowl production, grass harvesting, wild rice production, and selective harvesting of wetland plants.
- Select “upland” rather than ”wetlands sites” for development projects and avoid wetland alteration or degradation during project construction.
- Maintain wetlands and adjacent buffer strips as open spaces.
- Learn more about wetland restoration activities in your area; seek and support opportunities to restore degraded wetlands.