Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction
Wetlands cover a range of ecosystem types such as lakes, rivers, floodplains and coastal mangroves and they provide a range of important services for both people and the environment. They act as natural safeguards against disasters, which makes them important for protecting communities most at risk and vulnerable to the devastating effects of floods, droughts and storm surges.
It is a matter of great concern that the frequency of natural hazards worldwide has more than doubled in just 35 years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts more extreme weather events as the effects of climate change are felt around the world, while according to UN-Water, some 90% of all natural hazards are water-related.
Well-managed wetlands make communities resilient in the event of extreme weather and help to minimize the damage from these hazards. Coastal wetlands such as mangroves protect against flooding and serve as buffers against saltwater intrusion and erosion. Inland wetlands such as floodplains, lakes and peatlands absorb and store excess rainfall, which reduces flooding as well as delaying the onset of droughts by storing water.
However, wetlands are being destroyed or degraded faster than any other ecosystem. Latest figures show that 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared in the last century, and that every year we lose 1% of those remaining. Wetlands are drained or degraded to meet the increasing demands for water and land to cater for agriculture, industry and a growing urban population. It is crucial that more voices speak up for wetlands, more people become informed of their value and more decisive actions are taken to conserve and restore this valuable ecosystem.
Each year, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands celebrates 2nd February as ‘World Wetlands Day’ to raise global awareness of the importance of wetlands and the need for their conservation and wise use. We seek to mobilize global actions that will lead to the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of all wetlands.
-----------STATEMENT BY MARTHA ROJAS-URREGO, SECRETARY GENERAL, RAMSAR CONVENTION ON WETLANDS ON WORLD WETLANDS DAY 2 FEBRUARY 2017
2 February each year is World Wetlands Day. This day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
Each year since 1997, the Ramsar Secretariat has provided materials to help raise public awareness about the importance and value of wetlands.
New Ramsar Sites for World Wetlands Day
On World Wetlands Day, 2 February 2017 there are 2,260 Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites) covering over 215,000,000 hectares (2.15 million square kilometres).
Madagascar has designated five large Sites. The country now has 15 Sites, which support the protection of over 1.5 million hectares of habitats critical to the island’s unique biodiversity. These latest designations were achieved with the support of WWF Madagascar. The Sites host unique and extraordinarily rich ecosystems, and are of great economic, social and cultural importance in their respective regions.
Myanmar has designated Meinmahla Kyun Wildlife Sanctuary, a coastal wetland in the southern part of the Irrawaddy Delta, which is also an ASEAN Heritage Park. It supports one of the largest remaining mangrove areas in the Delta, where mangrove ecosystems have declined due to activities including logging, fishing and development of shipping lanes.
France has designated Marais Breton, Baie de Bourgneuf, Ile de Noirmoutier et Forêt de Monts. This Site, of almost 56,000 hectares, is France’s 45th. It covers one of the main areas of coastal marshes and tidal bays on the French Atlantic coast.
Italy has designated Trappola Marshland - Ombrone River Mouth as its 53rd Wetland of International Importance. The new Ramsar Site, located on the Tyrrhenian coast of Tuscany, represents one of the last remnants of a partly salty and partly freshwater complex of wetlands and sandy dunes.