Celebrating World Wetlands Day 2022

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World Wetlands Day 2022

What is Wetland?
A wetland is a land area that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, such that it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem. The Convention on Wetlands uses a broad definition of wetlands. It includes all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all manmade sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans.

According to United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season. Water saturation (hydrology) largely determines how the soil develops and the types of plant and animal communities living in and on the soil. Wetlands may support both aquatic and terrestrial species. The prolonged presence of water creates conditions that favor the growth of specially adapted plants (hydrophytes) and promote the development of characteristic wetland (hydric) soils.”

Wetlands may be natural or man-made. 
1. Natural wetlands include rivers, lakes, marshes and swamps, and man-made wetlands include canals, ponds, paddy fields and fish farms. 
2. Wetlands may be long-lasting or short-term and cover about 6% of the surface area of globe.

· Wetlands are important as they serve both people and nature, with an intrinsic value and services quantified in billions of dollars annually. 
· They make an important source of water supply and support a unique biodiversity of flora and fauna consisting of important plants, birds and animal species. 
· Our ecosystems directly and indirectly service humans and crops, especially the cultivation of rice, a staple for a large percentage of humankind, as well as fishing
· Wetlands also regulate global climate, storing carbon in a natural manner, with peatlands covering 3 percent of the Earth’s surface yet storing 30 percent of its carbon.
· Importantly, these resources are also situated at the crossroads of Asia’s major bird migration routes, serving as transit points for migrating birds.
· Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rain forests and coral reefs. An immense variety of plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish and mammals are part of a wetland ecosystem.
· Wetlands are “Biological Supermarkets.” They provide great volumes of food that attract many animal species that use wetlands for part of or all of their life-cycle.
· Wetlands play an integral role in the ecology of the watershed. They are ideal for the development of organisms that form the base of the food web and feed many species of fish, amphibians, shellfish and insects. Many species of birds and mammals rely on wetlands for food, water and shelter, especially during migration and breeding.

For Pakistan
1. Water regulation 
Pakistan’s wetlands play an important role in regulating water availability and water quality for water-resource conservation and storage, groundwater recharge and purification.
2. Wetlands and climate 
Wetlands play a significant role in local climate moderation and protection from extreme climatic events, but are threatened by climate change leading to reduced water availability and increasing variability between flood events and drought.
3. Biodiversity importance 
Pakistan’s wetlands are globally and nationally important for their diversity of ecosystems, habitats and species, from the high alpine lakes, small streams and major rivers to lowland lakes and reservoirs, and coastal wetlands such as mangroves, estuaries and beaches.
4. Human health and livelihoods 
Pakistan’s wetlands and their natural resources contribute significantly to human wellbeing – the health, nutrition and livelihoods of communities adjacent to and using wetlands. Wetland loss and degradation will increase the vulnerability and poverty of wetland riparian communities.

Ramsar Convention
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It is also known as the Convention on Wetlands or the Ramsar convention. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the convention was signed on 2 February 1971. It entered into force on 21 December 1975. The Convention provides the framework for international cooperation and national action for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. Almost 90% of UN member states are Ramsar “Contracting Parties”.
Pakistan signed the Ramsar Convention in 1976.

How does the Convention work?
The Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP) meets every three years and promotes policies and guidelines to advance the objectives of the Convention.

The Standing Committee, made up of Contracting Parties representing the six Ramsar regions of the world, meets each year to guide the Convention between meetings of the COP.

The Scientific and Technical Review Panel provides guidance on key issues for the Convention.

The Secretariat in Gland, Switzerland, manages the day-to-day activities of the Convention, and publishes Convention documents and the “Ramsar List” of Wetlands of International Importance. It is administratively supported by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Each Contracting Party designates an Administrative Authority as its focal point for implementation of the Convention.

Countries are also encouraged to establish a broad-based National Wetland Committee.
Contracting Parties can place Ramsar Sites with a changing ecological character on the Montreux Record, and technical assistance such as a Ramsar Advisory Mission can be provided.

Private companies and public and community organizations are encouraged to contribute to the mission of the Convention.

Wetlands of Pakistan 
Pakistan is home to different types of wetlands, e.g. (i) Inland waters; (ii) Delta marshes; (iii) Mangroves; (iv) Lakes and reservoirs; and (v) Fish farms and ponds
Out of 122 numbers of wetlands in the country, 10 wetlands are found in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, 22 are in Balochistan, 01 in Islamabad, 12 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 20 in KP, 17 and 30 in Punjab and Sindh, respectively. Out of these 122, the following 19 sites, covering an area of 1,343,807 ha, have been designated as Ramsar Sites. 

1. Astola Island (Balochistan; Ramsar Site no. 1,063)
2. Chashma Barrage (Punjab; Ramsar site no. 816)
3. Deh Akro-II Desert Wetland Complex (Ramsar site no. 1283)
4. Drigh Lake (Sindh; Ramsar site no. 100)
5. Haleji Lake (Sindh; Ramsar site no. 101)
6. Hub Dam (Sindh and Balochistan; Ramsar site no. 1064)
7. Indus Delta (Sindh; Ramsar site no. 1284)
8. Indus Dolphin Reserve (Sindh; Ramsar site no. 1065)
9. Jiwani Coastal Wetland (Balochistan; Ramsar site no. 1066)
10. Jubho Lagoon (Sindh; Ramsar site no. 1067)
11. Kinjhar Lake (Sindh; Ramsar site no. 99)
12. Miani Hor (Balochistan; Ramsar site no. 1068)
13. Nurri Lagoon (Sindh; Ramsar site no. 1069)
14. Ormara Turtle Beaches (Balochistan; Ramsar site no. 1070)
15. Runn of Kutch (Sindh; Ramsar site no. 1285)
16. Tanda Dam (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Ramsar site no. 98)
17. Taunsa Barrage (Punjab; Ramsar site no. 817)
18. Thanedar Wala Game Reserve (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Ramsar site no. 97)
19. Uchhali Complex (Punjab; Ramsar site no. 818)

Muhammad Ali Asghar

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