Friday, 2 February 2018

World Wetlands Day 2018

World Wetlands Day is one of the first environmental days on the calendar. It takes place on the 2nd of February in order to raise global awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet. Not only this, but it also marks the date of adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar. World Wetlands Day was first celebrated in 1997.

By 2050, 66% of humanity will live in cities, as people move into urban areas searching for better jobs. Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the value and importance of urban wetlands. In fast-growing cities, wetlands are often viewed as wasteland; places to dump rubbish, fill in or convert to other uses. Scientists estimate that at least 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900, while in parallel, cities have exploded in growth". Urban wetlands make cities liveable by providing multiple benefits such as; flood control, water supply, waste treatment, green space and livelihoods. Urban wetlands should be integrated into a city’s sustainable future planning and development; not viewed as wasteland. Cities should adopt policies and actions which help conserve and promote urban wetlands".

Here is a statement by Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, on the occasion of World Wetlands Day 2018:

"Wetlands are essential for a sustainable urban future 4 billion people, about half of the world’s population live in urban areas today. By 2050 that number is expected to increase as more people move into cities in search of jobs and better opportunities. Urbanization is one of the key defining mega-trends of our time. It’s completely transforming where and how people will live in the future. In fact it is estimated that the number of megacities with more than ten million inhabitants will jump from 31 to 41 by 2030. A rapidly growing urban population comes with enormous challenges for city planners and managers. They have to ensure that cities today can deliver not only basic services such as accommodation, transport and water, but that these cities are safe, resilient and environmentally friendly. Every year on 2 February, we celebrate World Wetlands Day, to raise global awareness about the important role of wetlands for people and the planet". 

"This year’s theme “Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future,” highlights the important role of wetlands for sustainable urbanization. Urban wetlands are essential and contribute to making cities liveable. During storms, urban wetlands absorb excess rainfall, which reduces flooding in cities and prevents disasters and their subsequent costs. The abundant vegetation found in urban wetlands, acts as a filter for domestic and industrial waste and this contributes to improving water quality. Urban wetlands supply cities with water and are green spaces for recreation which helps to promote human wellbeing. Today`s current development of human settlements is a major concern for wetland conservation and wise use. As cities grow and demand for land increases, the tendency is to encroach on wetlands. They are often viewed as wasteland available to dump waste or be converted for other purposes. Yet when preserved and sustainably used, urban wetlands can provide cities with multiple economic, social and cultural benefits. They are prize land not wasteland and therefore should be integrated into the development and management plans of cities". 

"We encourage cities to adopt policies and actions which will help to conserve urban wetlands. There are already successful examples of cities that have committed to sustainably use their wetlands. In October 2018 in Dubai, during the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, we will be recognizing the first cities to obtain Wetland City Accreditation under our Convention. We hope that these pioneer cities will serve as a catalyst and inspire deliberate actions that set us on a pathway towards sustainable urbanization. Let us commit to making our cities liveable by taking actions today to retain, restore and preserve urban wetlands. Happy World Wetlands Day 2018!"

Alternatively, you can view the video:

Let's have an in-depth look at the importance of wetlands:
·        Reduce flooding
Wetlands act as giant sponges that absorb flood waters. Rivers, ponds, lakes and marshes soak up and store heavy rainfall. In coastal cities, saltmarshes and mangroves work as a buffer against storm surges.
·        Replenish drinking water
Groundwater aquifers, rainwater and rivers are the source of almost all drinking water. Wetlands fi lter the water that seeps into aquifers, helping to replenish this important water source. Protecting rivers and limiting harmful run-off also helps safeguard the water supply.
·        Filter waste and improve water quality
The silt-rich soil and abundant plants in wetlands function as water fi lters, which absorb some harmful toxins, agricultural pesticides and industrial waste. Urban wetlands also help treat sewage from households.
·        Improve urban air quality
Wetlands radiate moist air thanks to their high water levels and lush plant life. This naturally cools the air in the local surroundings; a relief both in tropical cities and in extremely dry climates.
·        Promote human well-being
When preserved as green spaces in cities, wetlands offer residents a space for recreation and access to diversity of plant and animal life. Studies confirm that interacting with nature reduces stress and improves our health.
·        Enable people to earn a living
Many types of fish spawn and breed in wetlands, making them popular fishing grounds. Wetlands provide reeds and grasses for weaving, medicinal plants and fruits; all valuable goods for local residents. Wetlands also attract tourism, another important source of jobs.

These wetland benefits grow ever more crucial as the number of people living in cities has now passed the 4 billion mark and continues to rise. 

What are urban wetlands?
Wetlands are land areas that are flooded with water, either seasonally or permanently. Urban wetlands are found in and around cities or their suburbs and include rivers and their flood plains, lakes, and swamps as well as coastal variants such as salt marshes, mangroves and coral reefs.

Here follows an infographic will all of the important facts:

How a wetland works:

Help create awareness by:
  • Inviting the public to take action on urban wetlands Promote World Wetlands Day and the theme on urban wetlands on your website, on social media platforms, in newsletters or bulletin boards etc. 
  • Using the posters and hand-outs provided or create your own materials such as T-shirts, caps, banners etc. Indesign files are available and can be downloaded directly from: Translating the information materials provided into your own language. 
  • Writing a blog or article in your local paper. Inform journalists and other media about how wetlands benefit cities, and how important they are for quality of life in urban areas.
  • Organizing an event in your vicinity.
Examples include:
ü  Urban wetland field trip: Most cities have a wetland, maybe even a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Site). Consult the list of Ramsar Sites by country at the-ramsar-sites. Once on site, consider what the wetland does for the city. And enjoy bird-watching, hiking, a boat ride, or a swim.
ü  Conference or a talk featuring wetland experts, local people who make their living in wetlands.
ü  Exhibition to present and showcase arts or photographs about wetlands. Community walk, bike or run for wetlands.
ü  Public wetland clean-up day. Press conference to make an important announcement.
ü  Film viewing: bring people together to watch a film on wetlands. Organize a photo or essay competition on World Wetlands Day.
ü  Organize or join an urban wetland clean-up exercise.

You can also do the following:
ü  Become a wetland “Ambassador” who advocates for protecting local wetlands.
ü  Use water sparingly and avoid toxic products that could flow into urban
ü  wetlands.
ü  Support actions that seek to restore degraded urban wetlands.

Teachers' resources
  • Teacher’s guide to sustainable cities with a strong biology and science orientation, aimed at grades 9-12, issued by The Nature Conservancy: Teacher_Guide_v1_2_8_2016.pdf 
  • A brief but comprehensive overview of the growth of cities, from the United Nations: The World’s Cities in 2016 Data Booklet data_booklet.pdf 
  • A practical teacher’s guide for a wetland field trip, including activities for four different age ranges: Grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12. 
  • A teacher guide to wetland activities aimed at grades 4-5 covering key aspects including food chain, and water cycle. From Ducks Unlimited Canada: Teacher’s Guide to Wetland Activities 
To recap, World Wetlands Day 2018 aims to raise awareness about how urban wetlands contribute to the future of sustainable cities and you can assist, too.