World wetlands day

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

By Abdoulaye SENE, Executive Secretary of the 9th World Water Forum

The theme of this year's World Wetlands Day is: "Wetlands and Water". By choosing this theme, the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention reminds us of the importance of wetlands to ensure access to water for humanity and the environment, in sufficient quantity and quality.

Wetlands are not only essential environments for human life but are also considered as the "cradle of biological diversity". They protect our coasts from wave action, reduce the impact of flooding, absorb pollutants and improve water quality. They provide habitat for animals and plants, resources for humans.

They are an essential carbon store for the planet, with the highest capacity for carbon dioxide sequestration among terrestrial ecosystems. 

If maintained in good ecological status, wetlands play a very important role in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and thus slowing global warming. Through their natural capacity to store and redistribute water, wetlands help prevent disasters such as droughts and floods. In addition to the climatic interest, the protection of wetlands is a food security issue for African countries.  Indeed, wetlands are environments that concentrate several activities such as agriculture, fishing and livestock, which are essential for food security.

They thus provide various ecosystem services related to the supply of primary resources (food, construction, energy...), regulation of the atmospheric cycle (water purification, air purification...), culture (development of social, cultural, spiritual and religious activities) and support for biodiversity. These ecosystems thus present a strong potential for human life but are very fragile and subject to uncertainties (climate change) and pressures (urbanization, industrialization, mining ...). 

However, the loss of wetlands in 2015 was estimated at 40% in 40 years, an average that hides huge regional disparities, as it can be as high as 70% in some areas. In Africa, the situation is particularly worrying in the face of climate change and territorial dynamics linked to progressive urbanization, industrialization and mining. The most threatened sites are located in North-West Africa, in the Nile Valley, and in West Africa with a consequent reduction in river flows. In Senegal, a country with a total of eight Ramsar sites, the drastic decrease in rainfall is one of the main causes of the drying up of wetlands. 

The Executive Secretariat of the 9th World Water Forum, takes the opportunity of this World Day to appeal to the international community to join the preparatory process for the Dakar 2022 Forum, under the theme of "water security for peace and development". The link between the theme of this year's World Wetlands Day celebration and the theme of the 9th World Water Forum can be understood through the ecosystem services of wetlands (regulating services, resource availability, risk mitigation ...).

These different issues are addressed within the framework of the Forum, by the working groups set up around the thematic priority on water and sanitation security :

  • Improving water quality and waste management 
  • Protecting and restoring ecosystems and forests, including coastal and marine areas, and combating desertification
  • Halting the loss of aquatic biodiversity and invasive species in aquatic ecosystems 
  • Building resilience and adaptive capacity to climate change and natural disasters 

The 9th World Water Forum is thus an opportunity to properly address the issues related to the theme of this year's World Wetlands Day, to propose concrete responses through multi-stakeholder exchanges, the Dakar 2021 initiative, and to make political commitments to be implemented at the Summit of Heads of State to promote the conservation of these ecosystems which play an important role in achieving SDOs.