‘Caring for Wetlands: an Answer to
2 February 2010
World Wetlands Day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on the 2 February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. Each year, February 2 is observed as an opportunity to undertake actions to promote our awareness of wetland values and benefits. At the same time, this is the day for us to reiterate our commitment for the cause of wetlands by reflecting on our past activities and planning for the next year.
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This year, 2010, we are celebrating World Wetlands Day with the special theme: ‘Wetlands, Climate Change and Biodiversity’ and the slogan ‘Caring for Wetlands: an Answer to Climate Change’. The topic is very relevant and timely as it links two events: the UNFCCC COP15 in December 2009 on climate change, which brought together the world’s leaders, and the International Year of Biodiversity in 2010. Caring about climate change means caring about wetlands, which in turn meanscaring about biodiversity.
Wetlands outweigh many ecosystems in terms of productivity. However, the natural integrity of wetlands has been continually reduced by unsustainable management practices and the impact of climate change. If timely precautions are not taken, then the habitat of rare species of flora and fauna, and wetlands biodiversity overall, are in danger. People’s livelihoods may be trapped in the labyrinth of an ecological crisis. Wetland degradation should be halted immediately and reversed as much as possible without affecting the functions and services of other ecosystems.
We believe that implementation of an ‘ecosystem approach’ that aims at the reconciliation of short-term human needs and the long-term requirements of biodiversity will contribute both to the restoration of wetlands infrastructure and to the sustainable management of this natural resource.
In order to foster maintenance of the natural integrity of the wetlands in the Himalayan region, ICIMOD has initiated a wetlands programme that will facilitate implementation of the Convention on Wetlands in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas. Several preparatory steps in the form of seminars and workshop are being organised. A recent Consultative Workshop on High Altitude Wetlands in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas (Kathmandu, 3-4 December 2009) unanimously adopted a 13-point plan for action on the ground. These recommendations serve as guidelines for us to promote the cause of wetlands and their services in the region http://books.icimod.org/index.php/search/publication/677. ICIMOD also maintains a database for the wetlands of the greater Himalayas, and is promoting a trans-Himalayan transect approach in the region intended to help improve our understanding of various aspects of environmental changes on the mountain environment, including high altitude wetlands.
In conclusion, I would like to assure all our partners and collaborators of our commitment to the cause of the Himalayan wetlands. I hope that 2010 will be a fulfilling year for us for the wise use of wetlands and their ecosystem services.
Andreas Schild, PhD
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