Explainer: World Wetlands Day on Feb 2 – What are wetlands? Why are they important?

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Humanity and biodiversity survive on water, and wetlands are the natural repositories of water. The United Nations recognised ‘World Wetlands Day’ is celebrated on February 2 to mark the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in the Iranian City of Ramsar on the same day in 1971.

Wetlands, often known as ‘liquid assets’ are the most crucial natural resources that help stabilise water supplies, cleanse polluted waters, protect shorelines, and recharge groundwater aquifers. However, the degradation of wetlands is happening unabated across India.

The key message of ‘World Wetlands Day’ is to call for stepping up investment of financial, human, and political capital to save the wetlands from disappearing and to restore those we have degraded.

Each year, a global theme is adopted to focus attention and help raise public awareness about the value of wetlands. The theme for 2022 is ‘Wetlands Action for People and Nature’, which means a call to take action for wetlands is the focus of this year’s campaign.

Union Minister Bhupender Yadav is to preside over the World Wetlands Day function at Sultanpur National Park, near Gurugram, along with Haryana Chief Minister.

Another major virtual event is slated to be organised by the Wetlands International South Asia (WISA) highlighting the need for an ‘all of society’ approach to wetlands conservation.

“The wetlands are disappearing because of incessant encroachment, conversion to alternate land uses, degradation of natural catchments, fragmentation of water regimes, pollution, spread of invasives and impacts of climate change. The current generation cannot wait any longer to take action. Sincere efforts towards conserving wetlands and their integration in sectoral programmes such as Jal Jeevan Mission and SMART Cities has become imperative to abate the impending crisis,” WISA president Dr Sidharth Kaul said.

What can you do to spread awareness?

Some efforts are simple, some a tad difficult. The simple ones include your participation and/or encouraging others for it when some organisations are holding competitions on the occasion.

For instance, the Botanical Survey of India (BSI), Central National Herbarium, Howrah and the Central Media & Website Cell are going to organise the aNational Virtual Drawing Competition’ on February 2.

They have requested those wishing to participate to make a drawing on the theme of Wetland Day 2022, click or shoot their short videos while making the drawing and submit the entry between January 31 to February 2. Not only would there be top three winners from each category, the drawing of the winners would also be posted on official social media accounts of the BSI for spreading awareness.

Similarly, in the run up to the World Wetlands Day, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has organised a virtual quiz competition, especially for the children to enable participants to learn more about the wetlands’ functions in sustaining ecosystems, supporting biodiversity and more. This has been organised with Navi Mumbai Environment Preservation Society (NMEPS).

The Wetlands International South Asia (WISA), highlighting the need for an ‘all of society’ approach to wetlands conservation, is hosting a public webinar on the theme of the day: ‘Wetlands Action for People and Nature.’

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