“The swamp isn’t a useless piece of land. A swamp is a kind of wetland. Wetlands are important to humans.”―Dae-Seung Yang
Nepal, located between China and India, is home to a rich diversity of ecosystems, including wetlands. The mention of the word ‘wetlands’ brings to our minds the images of swamps and flooded plains. These marshy regions appear to serve no function, although they are the most valuable types of habitat. The public has numerous misconceptions about wetlands since there is little public interest in saving them.
Let’s begin with the definition of the word. Wetlands are unique ecosystems that play an important role in the health of the planet characterized by water-saturated soils, which create a habitat for a wide range of plant and animal species. Wetlands include natural and man-made water bodies such as marshes, swamps, lakes, and ponds.
Wetlands are home to 40 percent of all plant and animal species, covering just around 6 percent of the Earth’s terrestrial surface! Wetlands encompass around 743,500 hectares, or nearly 5-6 percent of the country’s total land area of Nepal. The Terai is characterized by a significant number of wetlands (163), hills, and mountains (79), which run from Mechi in the east to Mahakali in the west. Nepal is home to 20 of the 27 identified worldwide freshwater wetlands types. However, the Ramsar sites now comprise just 9 wetlands: Koshi Tappu (Sunsari), Beeshazari (Chitwan), Ghodaghodi (Kailali), Gokyo (Solukhumbu), Gosaikunda (Rasuwa), Jagadishpur (Kapilvastu), Maipokhari (Ilam), Phoksundo (Dolpa), and Rara Lake (Mugu).
Wetlands in Nepal support 193 of the 841 documented bird species, as well as 91 and 89 globally vulnerable flora and fauna, respectively; 11 flora and 59 fauna rely on wetlands for all or part of the year. Wetlands are perhaps the last surviving safe havens for certain wild relatives of domesticated plants. More than a billion people worldwide rely on wetlands for a living, accounting for almost one in every eight people on the planet.
Wetlands are often called “the kidneys of the landscape” because they filter pollutants and excess nutrients from the water that flows through them. They also serve as critical habitats for migratory birds and other wildlife, as well as providing important recreational opportunities for people. Wetlands bring several benefits, such as:
Flood control: Wetlands act as natural sponges, absorbing excess water during heavy rainfall and reducing the risk of flooding.
Water purification: Wetlands filter pollutants and improve water quality by removing excess nutrients and harmful substances.
Biodiversity: Wetlands provide habitat for a diverse range of plants and animals, including many threatened and endangered species.
Carbon sequestration: Wetlands act as carbon sinks, helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change by storing carbon.
Recreational opportunities: Wetlands offer opportunities for activities such as birdwatching, fishing, and hiking.
Economic benefits: Wetlands provide valuable resources, such as timber and peat, and support industries such as fishing and tourism.
Wetlands are the Earth’s most vulnerable habitat, vanishing three times faster than the forests. Since 1970, 35 percent of the world’s wetlands have been gone in just 50 years. Wetland loss is caused by human activities such as drainage and infilling for agriculture and building, pollution, overfishing and resource overexploitation, invasive species, and climate change. The mistaken perception of wetlands as wastelands rather than as life-giving sources of employment, income, and important ecosystem services has resulted in a vicious cycle of wetland loss, jeopardized livelihoods, and deepening poverty. One major difficulty is changing mindsets to urge governments and communities to appreciate and prioritize wetlands. The conservation and restoration of wetlands has become a priority for many organizations and governments around the world.
It is critical that we promote national and global awareness on wetlands to reverse their fast decline and stimulate conservation and restoration efforts. World Wetlands Day is an excellent opportunity to enhance public awareness of these vitally important ecosystems. The day is marked on February 2 each year to raise awareness on the importance of wetlands for our environment and for human kind. The day marks the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands, also known as the Ramsar Convention, on February 2nd, 1971 at Ramsar, Iran. To celebrate the Day, people can take part in activities such as visiting a local wetland, learning about the importance of these ecosystems, and participating in conservation and restoration efforts. By raising awareness and taking action, we can help ensure that wetlands continue to play a critical role in the health of our planet. The Day provides an opportunity for us to reflect on the vital role that wetlands play in our environment and to take action to conserve these important ecosystems for future generations.
Wetlands Restoration is the theme for 2023. Its primary goal is to protect our forest, trees, and overall wetland surface area. We are not paying attention to environmentally beneficial long-term growth in the technological era. As a result, the topic concentrates upon males who are unaware of the sustainable development of wetlands.
Wetlands are critical ecosystems that provide a range of ecological, economic, and social benefits. The loss of wetlands not only affects the environment but also impacts the livelihoods of local communities, who rely on these ecosystems for their daily needs. Global climate change and population increase have had a direct influence on water, making wetland protection even more crucial. The following are some critical steps for Nepal to conserve its treasured wetlands:
- Create a policy environment that encourages national commitment to wetland protection.
- Raise awareness among key stakeholders at the local and national levels about the importance of wetlands and their conservation.
- Conduct research and maintain an information and knowledge base on wetlands in order to better understand their conservation status.
- Identify, conserve, restore, and manage key wetlands by implementing management plans and involving all stakeholders, including local people, in wetlands conservation.
- Promote environment-friendly and sustainable tourism that reduces human impact on wetlands and their ecosystems.
- Promote environmentally friendly and sustainable tourism that reduces human impact on wetlands and their watersheds.
So, wetlands are a vital aspect of the natural ecology, and Nepal has one of the world’s most cherished water systems. To safeguard the advantages of wetlands and their resources for the present and future, as well as for people and biodiversity, Nepal must create synergy in conservation efforts, beginning with strong political commitment and driven by collaboration from the local to national and global levels. Ignoring the value of wetlands today will put us in a terrible position in the future. Let us conserve the wetlands for our own good.