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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

wetland conservation crucial for wildlife habitat, agriculture, economics, and climate change mitigation

Bhutan celebrated the World Wetlands Day for the first time on February 2. The day was observed to undertake activities focused on increasing awareness on the benefits of wetlands, both locally and globally.
For the first time, Bhutan joined the global celebrations of the World Wetlands Day in Phobjikha, the largest wetland in the country, after joining the Ramsar Convention last month.
It is an annual worldwide celebration of wetlands to commemorate the signing of the Ramsar Convention on February 2, 1971.
The event was observed in Phobjikha, Wangduephodrang. It was organized by Watershed Management Division, Department of Forests and Park Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Forest, and the Royal Society for Protection of Nature.
At the celebration, the director general of Department of Forest and Park Services, Karma Dukpa, said wetlands have a pivotal role in influencing the landscape dynamism to sustain life and safeguard the environmental integrity.
“Wetlands are valuable as wildlife habitat, for agriculture, for a rich biodiversity, for economics, for soil conservation, for climate change mitigation and also on a culture and historical context,” said Karma Dukpa.
The conservation director of WWF-Bhutan, Vijay Moktan, said once bountiful, the safe drinking water and water for farming are getting scare these days in Bhutan.
He said wetlands and its streams are the main sources for these purposes.
“If we don’t save these sources now it may be too late or very difficult to restore them in future,”
He further added that the loss of freshwater biodiversity from such areas is another concern altogether.
Bhutan joined the Ramsar Convention in January this year after the National Council endorsed it.
Three wetlands: Phobjikha, Bumdeling and Khotokha were identified as Ramsar Sites in Bhutan.
One of the objectives of the celebrations is aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits in general and the Ramsar convention in particular.
This year’s theme is Wetlands and Tourism and is linked to the theme for the next meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP11), Wetlands, Tourism and Recreation, which will take place in July 2012, in Bucharest, Romania.
Wetland tourism has benefits both locally and nationally for people and wildlife such as stronger economies, sustainable livelihoods, healthy people and thriving ecosystems.
At least 35% of Ramsar Sites around the world, which include Phobjikha in Bhutan, have some level of tourism activity.
In Phobjikha, Wangduephodrang, annually more than 300 black-necked cranes are estimated to visit the valley making it the largest wintering site for the cranes in the country.
By the same paradigm, not only the cranes, but annually Phobjikha also welcomes scores of tourists that flock the valley to view the mystical birds.
Befittingly, Phobjikha valley is an ideal location to observe the day and highlight the negative impacts of tourism on wetlands.

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