World Wetlands Day is a global awareness campaign to highlight the value of wetlands. This day also marks the anniversary of the Convention on Wetlands, an intergovernmental treaty adopted in 1971 and which now has a global membership of 172 countries, officially known as Contracting Parties. South Africa is one of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention).
World Wetlands Day aims to increase public awareness of how much wetlands do for humanity and the planet, to promote actions that will lead to their conservation, wise use, and restoration.
This year’s theme is - It's time for wetland restoration - The theme highlights the urgent need to prioritise wetland restoration and calls on an entire generation to take steps to revive and restore degraded wetlands.
Wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests, and more than 35% of wetlands have been degraded or lost since 1970. The trend of loss and degradation must be reversed.
Benefits from restored wetlands
- Increased biodiversity.
- Replenished and filtered water supply.
- Enhanced protection against floods and storms.
- More local and sustainable livelihoods and less poverty.
- Increased tourism and higher quality leisure time.
- Increased carbon storage and avoided emissions.
- Inner satisfaction of achieving a transformation.
Best practices in wetland restoration
- Consider the multitude of services the natural wetland provided and aim to recapture a wide range of those benefits, not just one or two.
- Aim to recreate a wetland ecosystem that can maintain itself.
- Integrate local communities and industries during planning and implementation.
- Identify the causes of degradation and limit or eliminate them.
- Clean up the degraded area.
- Restore native vegetation and wildlife and remove invasive species.
- Restrict site access, creating specific places for people and animals.
Whether in-person, online, or via media, World Wetlands Day provides an opportunity to engage new people or familiar faces on a new topic. The onus of saving our wetlands lies on our shoulders and at no cost can we afford to lose them.