More than one billion people worldwide depend on wetlands to make a living
Feb. 2 marks 45 years since the Convention on Wetlands was signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar. Each year on the anniversary, people in many countries come together to celebrate wetlands and their vital importance for the future of the planet.
Each year, a theme is selected to focus attention on a vital function of wetlands. The theme for 2016, under the banner “Wetlands for our Future,” is Sustainable Livelihoods, selected to demonstrate the vital role of wetlands for the current and future wellbeing of humanity and to promote the wise use of all wetlands types.
It is estimated that more than a billion people around the world make their living directly from wetlands, doing jobs such as fishing, rice farming or handicrafts. Other sectors such as travel and eco-tourism, water transport and aquaculture all depend on healthy wetlands.
And yet some 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900, many of them converted for agricultural use or urban development, putting at risk a billion livelihoods. Coastal, marine and inland wetlands are declining fast. Approximately 40% have been degraded in just over 40 years, according to the Wetland Extent Trend, and this decline is continuing at an accelerated rate of 1.5% annually.
Today there are 169 countries that have signed the Convention of Wetlands and over 2,200 sites designated and recognized as wetlands of international importance covering an area of 208 million hectares, an area larger than Mexico.
The new Ramsar Strategy 2016 to 2024 calls for wetland benefits to be featured in strategies and plans relating to key sectors such as water, energy, mining, agriculture, tourism, urban development, infrastructure, industry, forestry, aquaculture and fisheries at the national and local level. It also calls for wetland functions, services and benefits to be widely demonstrated and documented. This is why, for World Wetlands Day 2016, the Ramsar Secretariat has assembled a range of inspiring stories that demonstrate how wetlands can and do provide sustainable livelihoods. You can read these stories here.
To encourage the participation of young people, a photo competition open to ages 15 to 24 begins on Feb. 2 and lasts until March 2, 2016. Young people are encouraged to capture an image showing how wetlands are essential for sustainable livelihoods, and to upload as many as three photos to the World Wetlands Day website. The winner of the photo contest will enjoy a free flight to visit a wetland anywhere in the world, courtesy of Star Alliance.