Wetlands: Fragile Ecosystems

Wetlands: Fragile Ecosystems

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Lakes, rivers, swamps, reservoirs, aquifers and other similar small and large water bodies are all part of Wetlands. They cover only around 6 per cent of the Earth’s land surface, but surprisingly 40 per cent of all plant and animal species live or breed in them. One in eight people on Earth depends on them for their livelihoods.

Now, the latest findings from UN Environment Programme (UNEP) have revealed that these ecosystems of wetlands are also the front line power heroes in our fight against the climate crisis. They store more carbon than any other ecosystem. Peatlands alone store twice as much as all the world’s forests.

Apart from this mitigation role, they also play role in adaptation to Climate Change. They absorb excess water and help prevent floods and drought. That helps communities to adapt to a changing climate. No wonder the first-ever World Wetlands Day was observed on, 2 February. That date also marks the anniversary of the Convention on Wetlands, adopted as an international treaty in 1971.

The theme for the very first World Wetlands Day is Wetlands Action for People and Nature.

It serves as an urgent call to act and to invest financial, human and political capital, to save the world’s wetlands from disappearing altogether – and to restore those areas already lost.

Unfortunately, wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests and are Earth’s most threatened ecosystem. In just 50 years – since 1970 – 35 per cent of the world’s wetlands have evaporated as per UNEP’s findings. Human activities like agriculture, construction, pollution, overfishing and overexploitation of resources; together with invasive species have fuelled disappearances of wetlands thereby upsetting the balance, and climate change. Some 85 per cent of wetlands present in 1700, were lost by 2000, many drained to make way for development, farming or other so-called “productive” but unsustainable uses.

What are the actions needed to restore disappearing wetlands?

TERRE Policy Centre’s project of the global network of Universities for SDGs-Smart Campus Cloud Network( www.sccn.com) has initiated the activity that heralds the reversal of the spiralling downward trend.

Each University in its periphery of 10 km would identify wetlands and start their restoration with the help of local communities. SCCN is preparing the guidelines for the Universities for the same.

SCCN would also develop awareness kits on the benefits of the restoration of wetlands. In 2015, under Sustainable Development Goal 6, Target 6, all countries committed to protect and restore wetlands, by 2030. The universities and colleges have the power to start action which would prove to be a trigger to transformation much needed in the countries. Indeed, SCCN is an action network and not just a think tank.

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