Urbanization threatening wetlands

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An international scientist and environmental advocate group is calling for measures that will protect wetlands from encroachment and the other ills of urbanization.

“We encourage cities to adopt policies and actions, which will help conserve urban wetlands,” Martha Rojas
Urrego, secretary- general of an international advocacy group for wetlands, Ramsar Convention, said in her message for the global annual World Wetlands Day celebration this year.

World Wetlands Day is observed on February 2 every year. The organization gave this year’s celebration the
theme “Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future.”

Urrego said urbanization or population growth in urban areas increasingly threatened wetlands.


She said four billion people—about half of the world’s population—live in urban areas and this number is expected to increase by 2050, as more people migrate to cities searching for jobs and better opportunities.

“As cities grow and demand for land increases, the tendency is to encroach on wetlands,” she warned.

Encroachment is a real threat, since people often view wetlands as a wasteland, she points outed, sometimes using wetlands for dumping trash.

Wetlands are prized land, Urrego said, so authorities must integrate these areas into urban development and management plans.

“When preserved and sustainably used, urban wetlands can provide cities with multiple economic, social, and cultural benefits,” she said.

Ramsar Convention is an international agreement promoting conservation and wise use of wetlands worldwide to help bring forth sustainable development.

It defines wetlands as “areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters.”

The convention said wetlands included “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, as well as all human-made sites, such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs, and salt pans.”

The 2018 World Wetlands Day’s theme, highlighted the role of wetlands in sustainable urbanization, Urrego said.
She added wetlands absorb excess rainfall, mitigating urban flooding.

Vegetation in wetlands helped improve water quality by filtering domestic and industrial waste, she continued.

Wetlands also supply water and are recreational spaces that help promote human well being, she said.

“Urban wetlands are essential and contribute to making cities liveable,” she said.

Urrego said the first cities to obtain Wetland City Accreditation under the Ramsar Convention would receive recognition in October 2018.

“We hope such pioneer cities will serve as catalysts and inspire deliberate actions that set us on a pathway towards sustainable urbanization,” she said.

The recognition ceremony in Dubai would be during the 13th meeting of Ramsar Convention’s Conference of the Parties, she said.

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