World Wetlands Day 2017: what is celebrated and why
February 2 marks World Wetlands Day, on which the Intergovernmental Treaty on Wetlands was signed in 1971.
The Ramsar Convention, which unifies criteria on the protection of wetlands, seeks “through its own organization to promote the conservation and wise use of all wetlands by local, regional and national actors; in addition, through international cooperation, to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development around the world”. (www.ramsar.org)
One of the most recognized actions of this agreement is the creation of a list of wetlands that are considered of international importance, containing 2,245 wetlands in 169 countries (information as of December 2016).
Chile has been part of the Ramsar Convention since 1981, when it ratified it through its promulgation as a national law. Currently there are over 30,000 wetlands in our national territory, covering an area of 1,268,100 hectares. However, only 13 sites have been designated Ramsar sites, equivalent to 29% of the total area.
The Carlos Anwandter Natural Sanctuary (Río Cruces, Valdivia) was the first wetland in Chile to be declard a Ramsar site in 1981. The last declaration took place in 2015, in which Las Salinas de Huentelauquén was nominated, located in the Region of Coquimbo.
Why protect them?
The importance of the wetlands is not always public knowledge. We must be aware that they are vital ecosystems for a variety of reasons, many of which directly protect human beings and amend the consequences of human irresponsibility and its activities:
– Wetlands purify water and filter debris: its plants help reduce water pollution.
– They absorb and store the excess rainwater and floodwater, avoiding floods. In dry seasons, they release stored water, delaying the onset of droughts and reducing water shortages.
– Wetlands are areas of great biological diversity. They provide water and shelter for wildlife.
– They contribute to reduce the effects of climate change.
– They constitute areas of use for human activities such as tourism and fishing.
This year, to celebrate World Wetlands Day 2017, the Standing Committee of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands launched the theme “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction”; a subject that seeks to sensitize humanity to one of the many roles of healthy wetlands, focusing primarily on reducing the impact of natural disasters such as floods, droughts and tidal waves.
– Ministry of the Environment of Chile and CONAF (National Forestry Corporation)