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The theme for this year's World Wetlands Day, as declared by the Ramsar Convention, is "Wetlands for our Future: Sustainable Livelihoods".

Wetlands for sustainable livelihoods

Johannesburg is rich with nodes of wetlands, from Randburg's Ferndale wetland to Lakeside wetland in Orange Farm.

Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ) has been celebrating wetlands for number of years, and this year will not be different: the date is set for 18 February, and the facility that will be abuzz with wetlands activities will be Dorothy Nyembe EE Centre and the Dorothy Nyembe Park.

What are wetlands?

The Ramsar Convention explains wetlands as any land or area that has water either permanently or seasonally, as well as beaches and shallow coastal areas, thus covering all inland wetlands like ponds and marshes, estuaries, mangroves, lagoons and coral reefs.

World Wetlands Day is celebrated internationally on 2 February to mark the date of the adoption on the Convention on Wetlands that took place on the same date in 1971 in Ramsar off the Caspian Sea.

The theme for this year is aligned with the new Sustainable Development Goals and the important role wetlands play in our future as human beings.

Why should we protect wetlands?

Therefore, as people it is vital that we value, protect and conserve wetlands, as they provide us with so much goodness. We should be custodians and build stewardship towards wetlands.

Some of the things wetlands are useful to us for are: water provision, fishing, tourism and leisure, food and medicines. These are everyday things that we sometimes take for granted.

We need wetlands. They protect coastlines, act as natural sponges against river flooding, and store carbon dioxide to regulate climate change. They also benefit rural communities in our country (as described by Turpie et al 2010):

  • Water is collected for domestic use;
  • Wetland plants are harvested for food and medicine;
  • Wetland plants are harvested for building material and craft production;
  • Clay is collected for building material and craft production;
  • Seasonal grazing and watering of livestock takes place;
  • Subsistence, recreational and small-scale commercial fishing is practiced;
  • Crop cultivation depends on wetlands; and
  • Various recreational, cultural, religious and tourism related activities are associated with wetlands.

JCPZ wetlands projects

JCPZ, as custodians of wetland protection and advocacy in Johannesburg, have implemented a number of projects to help protect these sensitive ecosystems, inclucing wetland maintenance in Vorna Valley, the Kaalspuit and Kaalfontein wetlands, and alien invasive plant removal in Mondeor and the Joburg Botanical Gardens.

How you can play your part

What can people do to ensure that wetlands are protected and conserved for future generations?

  1. Speak out against violation of wetlands, and educate others about keeping wetlands clean and not dumping waste in and around them.
  2. Adopt a wetland; clean the area and ensure safe conditions for the animals living in and around the wetland.
  3. Use resources from wetlands sustainably.
  4. Do not burn wetland reeds.
  5. Celebrate World Wetlands Day every year by doing any or all of the above.