World Wetlands Day on Feb. 2 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 27 January 2011 16:56

The International Celebration of World Wetlands Day on February 2nd this year is being spearheaded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the country and focuses on a particular type of forest - those that are often wet, such as mangroves, flooded forests, peat swamp forests, riparian forests and watersheds.

The celebration marks its 40th year anniversary from the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetland on February 2, 1971 in the Iranian City of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. This intergovernmental treaty was signed by 160 countries, including the Philippines, to concentrate solely on the protection and conservation of one ecosystem – wetlands.  But it was in 1997 that World Wetlands Day was first celebrated.

This year’s main theme is Forests For Water and Wetlands and is an ideal opportunity for the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands to link with the United Nations declaration of 2011 as the International Year of Forests.

According to the United Nation’s Forum on Forests Secretariat we are losing at least 350 square kilometers of forest cover worldwide. This is mainly attributed to conversion to agricultural land, unsustainable harvesting of timber, unsound land management practices and creation of human settlements. Wetlands are threatened as most of them rely on forests upstream for their supply of fresh water. These are drained into special channels such as streams, rivers, ponds and lakes known as catchments. Without the trees in the forest, there will be lesser fresh water for domestic and industrial uses and our wetlands will be degraded.

Wetlands play an important role in our environment. Aside from being important stores of carbon, they can also sequester carbon thereby helping mitigate effects of climate change. They are also a source of fish and aquatic food, provide a diverse habitat to an impressive range of plants and animals, protect coasts against storms and rising sea level, stabilizes shores and banks thus minimizing soil erosion, traps sediments before it enters a water body, remove harmful nutrients (fertilizers and pesticides), provide shade thus reducing water temperature, provide leaf and fruit debris which enters the aquatic food chain, and most importantly, provide livelihoods for local communities.

The celebration of 2011 World Wetland Day shall bring an opportunity to look at our forested wetlands and the benefits we enjoy from them. It will also provide a chance to look at the forests in our catchments to ensure that there is enough water of good quality reaching our wetlands to keep them healthy. 

In the regional setting, DENR through the Protected Areas Wildlife and Coastal Management Services (PAWCZMS) will undertake various activities to generate public awareness on the observation of World Wetland Day. These activities include information campaigns among students and communities within Protected Areas thru Dalaw Turo, water fowl census/bird watching, planting of mangrove propagules, nature encampment, radio interviews, display of streamers, special convocations and the conduct of Participatory Coastal Resource Assessment (PCRA).

All DENR  provincial and community field offices were also instructed to initiate environmental activities to highlight the significance of the celebration.

Their main objective is to reach out to as many people as possible, particularly those living within the wetlands ecosystem, and explain the “ridge to reef “ interconnectivity, the importance, significance and benefits of forests and wetlands. — R. Tan, DENR-RPAO-9