World Wetlands Day is an environmentally related celebration which dates back to the year of 1971 when several environmentalists gathered to reaffirm the protection and love for wetlands, which are the small environments of plant life and organisms found within water bodies that bring about ecological health in abundance to not only water bodies but environments as a whole. The World Wetlands Secretary Department is originally from Gland, Switzerland and in accordance to the beginning of World Wetlands Day, the Ramsar convention first attributed this recognition in “the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea”.
World Wetlands Day is celebrated on the second day of February every year, though it was not originally celebrated until 1997. This day serves to recognize the influence and positive production that Wetlands have had on the world and in terms brings communities together for the benefit of Mother Nature. This day, also raises global awareness because wetlands play a significant role not only in people but in the planet. Community protectors and environmental enthusiast all come together on this day to celebrate their love for nature through celebration, which recognizes what wetlands have done for not only us humans, but all sorts of organisms in this world.
Over time, human construction has led to various ecological problems affecting wetlands. Overpopulation and construction has led to a decrease in environmental conservation and in total has brought upon issues to these lands. Many wetlands are being lost and ecologists claim that human should recognize this dilemma before the loss of a natural filter and conserver of the world.
Since 1998, the Ramsar Secretariat have partnered withDanone Group Evian Fund for Water (based out of Paris and founded in Barcelona, Spain) for financial support. For the Ramsar Secretariat, also known as Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, this financial support has produced a variety of outreach materials which include logos, posters, factsheets, handouts and guide documents to support country activities organized to celebrate WWD.
Each year a theme is selected to focus attention and help raise public awareness about the value of wetlands. Countries organize a variety of events to raise awareness such as; lectures, seminars, nature walks, children’s art contests, sampan races, community clean-up days, radio and television interviews, letters to newspapers, to the launch of new wetland policies, new Ramsar Sites and new programmess at the national level.
The theme for World Wetlands Day in 2022 was ‘Wetlands action for people and nature’ and it is based on the contribution wetlands and water have had in people and the planet.
Wetlands contribute a number of functions that benefit people. These are called ecosystem services and include water purification, groundwater replenishment, stabilization of shorelines and storm protection, water storage and flood control, processing of carbon (carbon fixation, decomposition and sequestration), other nutrients and pollutants, and support of plants and animals.
Wetlands are reservoirs of biodiversity and provide wetland products. They also play a role in climate change mitigation and adaptation.
World Wetlands Day was observed in Nepal organising various events. The slogan for the Day for Nepal is ‘Conservation of marshes, water bodies, ponds and brooks for the wellbeing of all’.
A national-level event on the conservation of wetlands under the leadership of Madhes Province was organised at the KoshiTappu Wildlife Reserve (KTWR), said the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC). The programme was organized jointly by the DNPWC, the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Forest of the province and the KTWR.
Wetlands cover an area of around nine percent in the world and around five percent in Nepal. Wetlands in Nepal carry international importance. According to the 1998 records of the World Conservation Union, Nepal, there are 163 wetlands in the southern plains followed by 79 wetlands in the Himalayan and hilly regions. Wetlands serve as important habitats for millions of migratory birds, fish, amphibians, insects and plants.
According to the Department’s statistics, 172 endangered species of plants and animals found in Nepal are dependent on wetlands. Similarly, 878 species of birds are found in Nepal and of them, 193 species of birds, 20 species of vertebrates, 17 species of animals and 7,000 species of plants, 25 percent of them are dependent on the wetland.
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterflow Habitat is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It includes the wetlands of international significance which provide habitat for rare and endangered biological species or ecosystem communities.
Nepal had the Koshitappu Wildlife Reserve enlisted in Ramsar on 17 December 1987 and became the state party to this Convention from 17 April 1988. The Koshitappu, Ghodaghodi Lake area, Jagadishpur wetland region, Bishajari and surrounding lakes, Rara Lake, Phoksundo Lake, Gosaikunda and lakes around it, Gokyo and lakes around it, Maipokhari and the lakes in Pokhara valley are enlisted in the Ramsar. The total area covered by these wetlands is 60 thousand 561 hectares.
According to National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP-2014), there has been a decrease of 5.41 per cent of the total wetland coverage due to expansion of croplands in Nepal. Major drivers of degradation are lack of clarity in policies and management responsibilities, inadequate technical, financial and institutional capacities, and population growth and their increasing demand for resources, among others.
Wetlands in Nepal harbour at least 230 indigenous fish species having higher economic, environmental and academic values. Also, 27 per cent of nationally threatened bird species, 85 per cent of endemic vertebrates and about 24 per cent of government-protected plants are recorded from the wetlands.
Remarkably, the Constitution of Nepal envisions a safe and clean environment as the fundamental right of its citizens. State policy directives placed in Annex 5 of the Nepali constitution provide a special focus to natural resource management, and the wetlands of international importance and considered it as the subject matter of the federal government. Similarly, the Local Government Operation Act 2074 BS, clearly empowers the local governments to carry out activities to protect and safeguard the wetlands.