to become operational on the Day).
Over 50% of the world’s
wetlands have been destroyed over the past 100 years and only 10% of the
remaining wetlands are protected. It is feared that flood-related disasters and
water shortages will increase in 60 countries by the year 2050 unless the
remaining wetlands are preserved.
Speaking about World Wetlands
Day, whose theme this year is “Wetland World - A World to Discover”, the
Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, declared: “I hope that World
Wetlands Day will help mobilize action to stem the alarming disappearance of
these rich and complex ecosystems, home to numerous endangered species of flora
and fauna. Their preservation depends on our ability to find wiser ways of using
natural resources. The study of wetlands and their conservation through the
implementation of the Ramsar Convention are essential both for biodiversity and
for the preservation of fresh water resources which is ever more crucial if the
needs of growing human populations are to be met in the years ahead.”
UNESCO has been involved in the
study and preservation of wetlands through its Man and Biosphere Programme whose
network of 391 reserves includes 59 sites which are also Wetlands of
International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. This year’s
World Wetlands Day marks the 30th anniversary of the Convention. UNESCO and the
Ramsar Bureau have been partners since the Convention was adopted and UNESCO
remains the legal depositary of the Convention. Among the most remarkable
protected wetlands we find: Tonle Sap (Cambodia), Pantanal (Brazil), Lac
Saint-Pierre (Canada), Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta (Colombia), Camargue
(France), Hara Biosphere Reserve (Iran), Volga Delta (Russian Federation),
Langebaan (South Africa), The Everglades (USA) and the Delta du Saloum
(Senegal). Some exceptional wetlands are also protected through their
inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
On February 2, the Grosses
Walsertal in Austria, which contains many important and rare types of wetland
sites with endangered flora and fauna, will be inaugurated as a reserve under
UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Programme.