World Wetlands Day – 2 February 2019

Wetlands play an important role in reducing the impact of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and cyclones, because they act as a natural sponge, absorbing and storing excess rainfall and reducing flooding.

During the dry season, they release the water stored, delaying the onset of droughts and reducing water shortages.

Wetlands are a natural safe guard against natural disasters and help us cope with extreme weather events. Well managed wetlands ensure communities are resilient and can bounce back from such disasters.

“South Africa has 23 Ramsar sites, covering 557 028 ha. Ramsar wetland sites were designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO, which came into force in 1975, says Deidré Penfold, Executive Director of the Chemical and Allied Industries’ Association (CAIA).

World Wetlands Day is a day when wetlands are celebrated around the world for the vital benefits they provide:

  • Drinking water
  • Water for agriculture and aquaculture that produce the food we eat
  • A tapestry of biodiversity upon which we all depend
  • A multitude of recreation, tourism and cultural opportunities
  • Protection against the impacts of climate change, which are increasing in intensity and frequency

The international theme this year is Wetlands and Climate Change.

“Wetlands offer many benefits to humans and the environment. They are hubs for biodiversity and perform important ecological functions such as controlling flooding, filtering water and improving air quality through carbon sequestration, which is a natural or artificial process by which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and held in solid or liquid form. This is important because wetlands help soak up the carbon that would otherwise rise and trap heat in the atmosphere. In this way wetlands help to stave off global warming," explains Penfold.

However, says Penfold, wetlands are under threat from urbanisation, pollution and draining of peat lands. “Urban planners and decision-makers face the dilemma of meeting an increase in demand for land in cities while still preserving the natural environment,” she says.

Urban wetlands play a vital role in making cities safe, resilient and sustainable. City planners, policymakers, NGOs, research institutions and communities all have important roles to play in conserving urban and rural wetlands.

Download World Wetlands Day Official PosterWorld Wetlands Day Official Poster

Download World Wetlands Day PosterWorld Wetlands Day Poster

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