From wetland rejuvenation along the Ganga to beach-cleaning in Senegal, the 50th World Wetlands Day saw several initiatives launched in recognition of the value to nature and humankind of the globe’s wetlands.
In a 29 January statement released to mark the occasion, Wetlands International, the body that coordinates and manages the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, laments that, despite significant achievements, the convention “has not been able to keep up with the growing threats and challenges that face wetlands. Wetlands around the world are being built on, drained, polluted, dried out and burnt. We are losing wetlands three times faster than forests and paying a heavy cost of this as a society in every region of the world. Water scarcity and droughts, intense floods, devastating fires, coastal erosion, heat stress and waterborne diseases are all symptoms of wetland decline.”
The statement calls for a shift away from the traditional “site-based approach” to wetlands conservation and restoration towards a “multi-sectoral, whole of society response across whole landscapes … that requires different policies, institutions and investment behaviours.”
Daniel Blanco, Director Latin America & Caribbean at Wetlands International called for improved collaboration with the private sector in Argentina, while the programme coordinator in Russia, Irina Kamenova said: “Clean water shortage is among those problem areas where these efforts still face the greatest difficulties. These issues need to be addressed through the integration of wetland conservation and restoration into river basin management and broader planning frameworks.”
On that note, India’s Water Ministry (Jal Shakti) and the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) announced Namami Gange, the country’s first programme to link wetland conservation with river basin management. Highlighting the interconnectedness of all water bodies, Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Minister of Jal Shakti said: “The innovative work done by NMCG for wetland conservation linked to river rejuvenation will help the entire country as a model framework.”
In Senegal, environmental protection NGOs mobilised young volunteers to clean up part of the mangrove swamps in the Joal-Fadiouth marine protected area, which is routinely polluted by plastic debris washed southwards down the coast. Youssef El Ali, President of the NGO Océanium, said: “It's only by training people and making them want to take this kind of action independently that we will have won the fight. Having a clean-up every once-in-a-while is good, but it's really only to set an example."
Signed on 2 February 1971 in Ramsar, Iran, The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is the oldest modern-day intergovernmental treaty on the environment. Since its inception, almost 90 Percent of UN member states (171) have signed up as “contracting parties”. Initially concerned about the loss and degradation of wetland habitat for migratory waterbirds, the convention’s mission is “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.”