World Wetlands Day in the context of climate change


By Peter Makwanya

THROUGHOUT the globe, February 2 has become significant on the environmental calendar. The world commemorates the role played by the wetlands in any given country especially in the face of climate change. The World Wetlands Day is the day for promoting awareness of wetlands as people take stock of how they have been looking after these important carbon sinks.

From 1971, the World Wetlands Day was adopted as a treaty in the Iranian city of Ramsar. The World Wetlands Day has been celebrated for 51 years now.

There are reasons for celebrating this day on the global environmental calendar, chief among them is to raise global awareness about the role of wetlands. Wetlands do not exist in isolation but with the people and for the people’s livelihood options in the face of climate change.

The theme for the 2022 edition is Wetland Action for People and Nature. In terms of understanding the significance of the wetlands worldwide and the need to preserve them, the two thematic pillars of “people” and “nature” remain fundamental in this discussion.

Sustainable development goal (SDG 13), which is about climate action, requires people to take action, worldwide and preserve wetlands. In this wetland conservation discourse, the same people who were the agents of destruction, can be part of the solution to reclaiming the lost wetlands or to preserve the existing ones. By commemorating the World Wetland Day, sustainable actions contribute to wetland stewardship. Vast wetland areas have been lost worldwide due to unsustainable human activities some of which contribute to global warming.

As part of the ecosystem, wetlands are there to provide a bubble of life. Globally, both in rural and urban areas there are deliberate human activities to tamper with and degrade wetlands for a number of reasons which do not make wrong actions right.

The causative factors include degrading wetlands in the urban areas for building new settlements and urban agriculture, a human activity which many do not seem to see anything wrong with it since it is about food security.

Whenever populations increase, wetlands become more endangered as unsustainable human activities are accelerated as well, thereby releasing greenhouse gases such as methane into the atmosphere.

In rural areas, due to shortage of arable and grazing land, wetlands have been turned into agricultural plots thereby destroying the ecosystem service that wetlands offer.

A balanced ecosystem should contribute to human wellbeing if properly managed hence the theme for this year, Wetland Action for People and Nature.

Therefore, wetlands’ natural roles as buffers, sponges, natural habitation for micro-organisms, carbon storage facilities and agents for flood control and erosion, have an intrinsic value.

Every year, on this day, the whole world is reminded of the sustainable role of wetlands on a global scale, as requiring multi-scale approaches of enhancing the interaction between people and biodiversity. It is the desire of the global environmental watchdogs to see a healthy planet, healthy ecosystems and wetlands contributing to environmental security, resilience, healthy well-being, choices and actions.

This year’s theme calls for people around the globe to engage in actions that do not destroy the wetlands, actions that help them to tell sustainable environmental stories. Humanity is required to engage in climate action strategies that contribute to restorations of lost and degraded wetlands thereby adding value to agricultural growth, nature regeneration, water and food security.

The theme calls for urban authorities to safeguard wetlands as they designate land for residential stands. Building and agriculture are known human activities that have contributed to wetland degradation hence the abuse for wetlands need to be stopped.

Degraded and unprotected wetlands render more areas vulnerable and this becomes a biodiversity concern.

As such, wetland survival and actions resonating with sustainable development are a priority and the mainstay of ecosystem services.

Wetlands thrive in an environment of sufficient water and moisture levels, on the surface and under the ground.

As the world is faced with grim realities of witnessing wetlands disappearance and resultant water stresses, policies need to be revisited and strengthened.

Not enough interventions have been made on the part of policymakers to make people generally aware of wetland preservation.

With climate change impacting negatively communities around the globe, people need to be reminded that there is only one earth.

A wide range of plants, aquatic life, fruit and crop species that survive in wetlands have regrettably been lost, this also means limited human livelihood options and increases in vulnerabilities around the globe.

Wetland preservation is ongoing and not an event just as the commemoration of the World Wetland Day on February 2, annually. The noises heard from authorities on this day normally die and go with the passing of the day, only to be reignited the following year, which is very unfortunate.

It is significant to always keep carbon locked under the ground, while flood forces are minimised including improving the quality of water for sustainable human livelihoods through value-chain systems.

Sustainable wetland value chains contribute to value addition and beneficiation, knowledge transfer and sustainable rural livelihoods. In this regard, it is fundamental that wetlands receive attention, recognition and the respect they deserve. They need to be protected for countries to realise a wide range of ecosystem services.

  • Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes here in his personal capacity and can be contacted at: