Image: Birengero wetland in Akagera National Park taken by Yvette Umurungi
World wetlands day is celebrated internationally every year on 2 February. This marks the day of adoption of the convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, known as the Ramsar convention that took place in the Iranian city of Ramsar. Rwanda signed this convention on 29 December 2003.
Each year comes with a different theme that conveys a message on a certain subject and it is set by the Ramsar secretariat. The theme of 2017 is “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction”.
Wetlands play a major role in providing communities with resilience to natural catastrophes such as floods, drought, extreme climate change events and tsunami. Despite their importance wetlands are greatly threatened by human activities which include agriculture, waste disposal, and mining, and according to Ramsar more than 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900. Annual World Wetlands Day is regarded as a chance to raise public awareness and promote the values of wetlands.
In celebration of this day in Rwanda, Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) urges all Rwandans to conserve wetlands from all activities destroying wetlands so that the risks of disasters can be reduced. Eng. Coletha Ruhamya the Director General of REMA talking about World Wetlands Day was quoted in the press:
“in Rwanda wetlands are threatened by unplanned conversion to agriculture, industrial pollution, sewage and excessive harvest of products, construction of infrastructures in wetlands and so on. She urged Rwandans to conserve wetlands by using them appropriately so that the risk of disasters the country is facing in now days can be reduced.”
In regard to the celebration of World Wetlands Day the awareness is being raised in line of this year’s them through media. The message in line with this year’s theme was also given during the end of January 2017 community work known as Umuganda.
Consider wetlands every day! They are important for clean water, flood mitigation, soil fertility, and many other ecosystem services, and they are rich in biodiversity unique to wetland systems.