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The Department of Environmental Affairs celebrates World Wetlands Day

02 February 2015

 

The Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs Ms Barbara Thomson has today 02 February 2015, led the annual World Wetlands Day celebration at the False Bay Nature Reserve, in Cape Town.

The annual celebration aims to, amongst others, raise awareness on the benefits and importance of wetlands as a natural resource in communities. The theme, for this year’s celebrations was: “Wetlands for Our Future – Lets use them wisely, together!”.

World Wetlands Day is an annual event that commemorates the signing of the Convention on Wetlands which took place on 02 February 1971, in the Iranian City of Ramsar. The Ramsar Convention is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

This year’s key messages focused on the wise use of the wetlands to ensure that they can fully deliver their valuable role in supporting human well-being and biological diversity. It is also important  to highlight that wetlands are under threat due human activities, pollution of water and reduction of water resources and  that these threats could have dire consequences to the environment.

Wetlands provide many essential ecosystem services that benefit everyone, rich and poor, urban or rural. These services include provision of food, water purification, storage and supply of freshwater, flood control and storm protection, as well as recreation. Wetlands also provide important benefits for industries, such as forming nurseries for fish, other freshwater and marine life.  With their natural beauty and biodiversity, wetlands also make ideal locations for tourism. The income can be significant and support livelihoods locally and nationally.

Environmental education is a key focus area in the False Bay Nature Reserve, with three environmental education programmes currently running, namely the Zeekoevlei Environmental Education, the False Bay Ecology Park Environmental Education Centre and the Rondevlei Environmental Education Centre.

Around 4 000  to 6 000   learners participate annually in these environmental education programmes, and are educated through field trips and  or bush camps, hands-on environmental activities, displays and talks, as well as reptile and animal shows.

Speaking at the event the Deputy Minister noted that wetlands play a crucial role in contributing towards the economy. “Their value has been assessed economically and the department is appreciating their contribution through our Environmental Programme.  Wetlands are crucial to our national economy and the well-being of all South Africans. When the real value of their free 'service' is calculated, one realises that wetlands earn South Africa millions of rands each year, she said.”

The Deputy Minister was joined by Cllr Johan van der Merwe, and representatives from the premier and mayor’s office, of the City of Cape Town.  Minister Thomson also handed over a Ramsar certificate to the City of Cape Town for the designation of False Bay Nature Reserve as a wetland of international importance.

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