Senegal, Morocco and the Republic of Congo today declared new “Wetlands of International Importance” which will join the “Ramsar List” on the occasion of World Wetlands Day, February 2. The wetland sites include and incorporate exceptional coastal areas, sensitive estuaries, sand banks, permanent and temporary rivers, lakes, lagoons, marshes and swamp forests.
The Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, marked World Wetlands Day in Guangzhou city, the third largest economic city of China. Ms Rojas Urrego commended China on its ambition to protect all wetlands in the country and specifically on developing its thirteenth five-year implementation plan for national conservation of wetlands.
“If urbanization is to deliver on the promise of a better life for people, it must be sustainable and deliver not only basic services such as jobs, accommodation and transport but cities must be safe, resilient and environmentally friendly,” said Rojas.
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance was signed on February 2 in 1971. The Convention, named after Ramsar, Iran, where it was signed, describes its mission as “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.
The February anniversary has become an occasion for governments, NGOs, and civil society organizations to undertake actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits.
Wetlands are defined by the Convention as including all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans.
The Convention notes that “Wetlands are vital for human survival. They are among the world’s most productive environments; cradles of biological diversity that provide the water and productivity upon which countless species of plants and animals depend for survival”.
“Wetlands are indispensable for the countless benefits or “ecosystem services” that they provide humanity, ranging from freshwater supply, food and building materials, and biodiversity, to flood control, groundwater recharge, and climate change mitigation”.
Under the “three pillars” of the Ramsar Convention, the Contracting Parties commit to working towards the wise use of all their wetlands; designating suitable wetlands for a list of Wetlands of International Importance (the “Ramsar List” currently numbers 2,299) and ensuring their effective management; cooperating internationally on transboundary wetlands, shared wetland systems and shared species.
Every three years, representatives of the (currently 169) Contracting Parties meet as a Conference which acts as a policy-making entity for the Convention with the next occasion to be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in October 2018.