World Wetlands Day 2024: A crucial link between wetlands and human well-being

Jakarta – On February 2, 2024, the global community commemorated World Wetlands Day, emphasising the critical role of wetlands in enhancing human prosperity and ensuring the health of our planet. This year’s theme, “Wetlands and Human Wellbeing,” spotlighted the essential relationship between wetlands and various aspects of human well-being, including physical, mental, and environmental health.

Wetlands are not just water bodies but lifelines for over 100,000 species and a source of freshwater that is indispensable for human survival. These ecosystems are fundamental in sustaining humanity, notably through agriculture, as rice grown in wetland paddies feeds three billion people, accounting for 20% of the world’s food supply. Beyond their agricultural value, wetlands serve as natural buffers, absorbing rainfall, reducing the impact of floods, and mitigating storm surges, thus safeguarding communities against natural disasters.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has taken significant strides in advocating for wetlands’ preservation, restoration, and sustainable management. Their efforts focus on ensuring food security and supporting various sectors such as crop and livestock production, forestry, fisheries, and aquaculture. Through integrated land and water resources management, FAO addresses the pressing challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and competing sector demands.

Marking a historical commitment to wetland conservation, the Ramsar Convention, established on February 2, 1971, in Ramsar, Iran, now boasts 172 signatories or Convention Contracting Parties across the world, including Indonesia, which joined the convention in 1991. The Ramsar List represents the world’s largest protected area network, with over 2,400 sites covering more than 2.5 million square kilometres globally.

Indonesia, a key player in wetland conservation, has designated seven Ramsar sites encompassing over 1.3 million hectares nationwide. These sites are the Berbak National Park in Jambi, Sembilang National Park in South Sumatra, Rawa Aopa Watumohae National Park in Southeast Sulawesi, Lake Sentarum National Park in West Kalimantan, Wasur National Park in Papua, and Rambut Island Wildlife Reserve in Jakarta and Tanjung Puting National Park in Central Kalimantan.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, highlighted human and wetland health interdependence, stating, “Wetlands are these great wonders of nature, performing vital functions for us and for nature.” She underscored the importance of nature-based solutions in protecting, restoring, and sustainably managing wetlands, especially in water degradation and increasing stress.

Echoing Andersen’s sentiments, Dr. Musonda Mumba, Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands, reminded us of wetlands’ indispensable role in human history, offering sustenance, inspiration, and resilience. However, despite their value, wetlands face threats from unsustainable agricultural practices, pollution, and urban expansion, emphasising the urgent need for conservation and restoration efforts.

As cities grow and the demand for land increases, the pressure on wetlands intensifies, leading to their rapid disappearance. World Wetlands Day 2024 serves as a poignant reminder of the need to halt the destruction of these critical ecosystems. By fostering a deeper understanding of wetlands’ importance and encouraging global action towards their conservation, we can ensure a healthier planet and a better future for all. (nsh)

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