May 21, 2024, Tuesday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

World Wetlands Day observed

PM expresses need of wetland preservation

The Nepal Weekly
February 7, 2023

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 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 recognises 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 recognise the dilemma before the loss of a natural filter and conserver of the world.

Wetlands are ecosystems where water is the primary factor controlling the environment and the associated plant and animal life. A broad definition of wetlands includes both freshwater and marine and coastal ecosystems such as all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human-made sites such as fishponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and saltpans.

These lands are critical to people and nature, given the intrinsic value of these ecosystems, and their benefits and services, including their environmental, climate, ecological, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic contributions to sustainable development and human wellbeing.

Though they cover only around 6 per cent of the Earth’s land surface, 40 per cent of all plant and animal species live or breed in wetlands. Wetland biodiversity matters for our health, our food supply, for tourism and for jobs. Wetlands are vital for humans, for other ecosystems and for our climate, providing essential ecosystem services such as water regulation, including flood control and water purification. More than a billion people across the world depend on wetlands for their livelihoods – that’s about one in eight people on Earth.

The theme for World Wetlands Day in 2023 was “It’s Time for Wetlands Restoration”.

Wetlands are among the ecosystems with the highest rates of decline, loss and degradation. Indicators of current negative trends in global biodiversity and ecosystem functions are projected to continue in response to direct and indirect drivers such as rapid human population growth, unsustainable production and consumption and associated technological development, as well as the adverse impacts of climate change.

Wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests and are Earth’s most threatened ecosystem. In just 50 years – since 1970 – 35% of the world’s wetlands have been lost. Human activities that lead to loss of wetlands include drainage and infilling for agriculture and construction, pollution, overfishing and overexploitation of resources, invasive species and climate change.

This vicious cycle of wetland loss, threatened livelihoods, and deepening poverty is the result of mistakenly seeing wetlands as wastelands rather than lifegiving sources of jobs, incomes, and essential ecosystem services. A key challenge is to change mindsets to encourage governments and communities to value and prioritize wetlands.

Wetlands are a natural solution to the era-defining global threat of climate change. They absorb carbon dioxide so help slow global heating and reduce pollution, hence have often been referred to as the “Kidneys of the Earth”. Peatlands alone store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests combined. But, when drained and destroyed, wetlands emit vast amounts of carbon.Wetlands also provide a buffer against the impacts of floods, droughts, hurricanes and tsunamis, and build resilience to climate change.

Wetlands protect ecology by reducing the impact of climate change and soil loss. They provide opportunities for tourists to have recreational activities like swimming and rowing boats, bird watching, and savour natural beauty, experts mention.

However, they have faced conservation and management challenges due to climate change, human encroachment, pollution, illegally construction of structures and a lack of maintenance.   

Ministry of Forest and Environment of Nepal Government has come up with policies and launched various programmes in coordination with the province and local levels to conserve wetlands.    

Around nine percent of the world’s space and approximately five percent of Nepal’s area are covered by wetlands. There are 163 wetlands in the Tarai and 79 in mountainous and hilly areas.    

Wetlands are habitat for various birds, fishes, insects, animals, vegetation, and around 172 endangered vegetation and animals are dependent on them in Nepal, according to available data. Out of 878 bird species found in the country, 193 are dependent on them. Similarly, 17 of 20 animal species with backbone, 25 percent of 7,000 types of vegetation and 246 types of flowering plants are dependent on them.    

The Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention) was signed in Iran on 1 February, 1971 with the aim of conserving and protecting wetlands globally. Since then, the Day is being observed globally on February 2 in memory of the Day when the international treaty was signed. It works for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. So far, 170 countries are signatories to the treaty, and 2,314 wetlands globally are listed on the Ramsar site.

Nepal became a signatory to the treaty on 17 April, 1988 by enlisting the Koshitappu Wildlife Reserve on the Ramsar site on 17 December, 1987. 

Nepal has 10 sites designated as wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites) with a surface area of 60, 561 hectares. They are KoshiTappu Wildlife Reserve, Ghodaghodi lake area, Jagadishpur Reservoir, Beeshazar and associated lake, Raralake, Phuksundo Lake, Gosaikunda and associated lake, Gokyo and associated lake, Mai Pokhari Lake and Lake Custer of Nepal. Lake Cluster of Pokhara: Phewa, Begnas, Rupa, Dipang, Maidi, Khaste, Neurani, Kamalpokhari and Gunde.