Celebrating world wetlands day

28 February 2017

South 2017 World Wetlands DayAfrica joined the world in commemorating the annual World Wetlands Day under the theme: 'Wetlands for disaster risk reduction' on 2 February 2017. The theme has been adopted in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13, which calls for 'urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts', particularly its target 13.1, which advocates for 'strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries'. Therefore, this is a timely opportunity for South Africa to demonstrate the role of wetlands in achieving these goals through disaster risk reduction in events such as floods and the impacts of drought.

In recent years, South Africa has been experiencing severe drought conditions, which have negatively impacted the fresh water supply, biodiversity and livelihoods. Therefore, this year's World Wetlands Day theme is also strategically aligned to Goal 14 of the Ramsar Convention Strategic Plan for 2016 to 2024, which outlines 'the importance of restoring degraded wetlands for biodiversity conservation, disaster risk reduction, livelihoods and/or climate change mitigation and adaptation measures,' said Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Barbara Thomson.

Given the strategic importance of wetlands, the Department of Environmental Affairs runs the Working for Wetlands Programme, which is implemented through the government's Expanded Public Works Programme methodology. The programme focuses on rehabilitation, maintenance and protection interventions to ensure healthy wetlands.

Without water there would be no life on earth. South Africa does not have an abundance of water, and it is often polluted in many streams. Droughts and floods are also common here. A wetland is a unique ecosystem – an area of land saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally – and is able to reduce the severity of droughts and floods by regulating stream flow, purifying water and storing water to ensure supply during dry periods. In addition, wetlands can recharge ground water, control erosion, provide food for livestock, protect biodiversity, provide locations for recreation as well as provide plants that can be used for houses and crafts. These are just some of the benefits of a well-functioning wetland.

In Cape Town, various nature reserves participated in celebratory and awareness raising events aimed at highlighting the importance of wetlands to various school learners across the Cape Flats. Participating nature reserves include the Durbanville Nature Reserve, Edith Stephens Nature Reserve, False Bay Nature Reserve, Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area, Table Bay Nature Reserve, Wolfgat Nature Reserve and Zandvlei Nature Reserve.

For more information on the importance of wetlands to humans and animals, please click here.

For more information on wetlands, download the Landowner's Guide to Managing Wetlands, produced by CapeNature. The guide is also available in Afrikaans here.

Original article by the Department of Environmental Affairs.

Original article by the Two Oceans Aquarium.

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