Every year World Wetlands Day is celebrated on 2 February, marking the day of the adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, 41 years ago in the Iranian city of Ramsar. This year the theme of World Wetlands Day is ‘Wetland Tourism, A Great Experience’.
Zooming in on the value of responsible tourism in and around wetlands, is a way of increasing awareness of the importance of maintaining the health of wetlands – both for communities who depend on them, but also for visitors who enjoy them. Wetlands and their wildlife are a key part of the global tourism experience. The expenditure from visiting tourists to wetlands can be estimated at around US$ 925 billion each year.
“Wetlands, such as mangroves, peat forests and freshwater swamps, are home to a wealth of biodiversity. Wetlands fulfill vital roles in carbon storage, pollution control and protection from natural hazards such as floods and storms. Millions of people around the world rely on wetlands for livelihoods, as wetlands provide many ecosystem services, such as food, fresh water and fuel”, says Mark Smith, Director of IUCN's Global Water Programme.
For example, the Niger delta hosts about 20% of the population in Mali and generates on average 90,000 tonnes of fish catch per year. The lower Mekong delta supports the world's most productive inland fisheries, valued at around US$ 3 billion, caught each year. These inland fisheries provide 56 million people with up to 80% of their animal protein intake.
IUCN is increasingly promoting the idea of ‘nature-based solutions’ as part of strategies for tackling the big issues the world faces. Undoubtedly, wetlands are part of these ‘nature-based solutions’ for water supply and sanitation, for food security, climate change adaptation, for a green economy.
“Wetlands tourism though reminds us that people also rely on them for renewal, relaxation and adventure. This reflects the fact that we humans are a wetland species. Many great civilizations have evolved along rivers. It makes sense that we go back to wetlands, ‘to get away from it all’”, said Dr Smith.
On the occasion of this year’s World Wetlands Day, a special celebration took place in the US mission to the United Nations in Geneva. US Ambassador Betty E. King welcomed IUCN Deputy Director-General, Poul Engberg-Pedersen, along with Botswana Ambassador Mothusi Bruce Rabasha Palai, and Ramsar Deputy Director-General Nick Davidson, for presentations and a panel discussion on the role of wetlands tourism. This was followed by an announcement of World Wetlands Day photography winners. More information on the winning entries and the competition can be found here.
Ramsar will hold its 11th Conference of the Parties in July, in Bucharest, Romania.
For more information on World Wetlands Day, please contact [email protected]iucn.org