On 1 February 2018, as part of the global commemoration of World Wetlands Day, ICLEI’s Cities Biodiversity Center (ICLEI CBC) joined forces with Water Research Commission (WRC), South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) to celebrate the “birthday” of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The event was hosted by City of Tshwane (COT) and took place at Sammy Marks Square Auditorium in Pretoria Central. It forms part of the COT’s plan to create awareness and advocate for the importance of wetlands in the metro.
ICLEI CBC presented on the relevance of this year’s theme: Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future.
Mr. Cyprian Mathaba from SANBI set the scene for the event, introducing wetland ecosystems and all they encompass and in so doing, ensured wetlands were at the forefront of discussions throughout the day.
Mr. Ryan Fisher (from ICLEI’s Cities Biodiversity Center) presented on the LAB Wetlands SA project, highlighting how the project methodology can be adopted by cities to improve the management and protection of wetlands, ensuring a sustainable urban future.
Other talks and presentations included the links between wetlands and climate change, disaster risk reduction (Dangers of building along a flood line) and a citizen’s perspective outlining the value of wetlands to society. The delegation experienced the event as an opportunity to learn about wetlands, express their views on what is happening and the reality experienced on the ground. They had the opportunity to engage with COT officials on their personal role in the protection and management of wetlands.
Why are wetlands important?
Due to rapid urbanisation and population growth, cities, particularly in modern times, are faced with enormous difficulty in providing basic services to citizens. This is compounded by the impacts of climate change, poverty and limited resources.
With the valuable ecosystem services that wetlands provide (such as clean water, food resources and medicinal plants), and the potential to alleviate some of the pressures on cities to function optimally, the LAB methodology provides cities with a quick and easy, yet comprehensive way of ensuring a sustainable future with wetlands. The COT has been partnering with ICLEI for a number of years and is one of the cities to have piloted, tried and tested the initial LAB programme. They have subsequently made huge strides in wetland management and protection.