Minister: (Conserving Wetlands must for tackling floods)

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Climate Change, Mushahid Ullah Khan on Sunday said that conserving wetlands and protecting them from any damage was critical for their sustainability, as these water bodies play a vital role for environmental services, human survival, biological diversity and mitigating floods.

In a statement on the occasion of the World Wetlands Day 2015 being marked today (February 2) under the international theme “Wetlands for Our Future”, the minister highlighted that the theme of this year’s wetland day highlights unprecedented significance of wetlands for our better tomorrow.

He said wetlands constitute lakes, marshes, peatlands, wet grasslands, streams and rivers. Underscoring significance of the wetlands, he said wetlands not only purify and replenish our water and provide the fish that feed hundreds of millions of people, but they also act as a natural sponge against flooding and drought as well as protect our coastlines.

Besides, he said the natural water bodies burst with biodiversity, and are a vital means of storing carbon, but unfortunately, these benefits and many others remain widely unknown, which is why they are often viewed as wasteland, a notion that need to be reversed.

In Pakistan, the wetlands are home to a rich biodiversity and provide livelihood opportunities for local communities besides a number of recognized ecosystem services, the minister added.

“In view of the devastating floods in the country during the past few yeas, role of wetlands to reduce intensity of floods has been highlighted at various platforms. In this connection, Ramsar Advisory Mission (RAM) to Pakistan in 2012 came up with key recommendations that can help mitigate damages caused by floods and use floodwater for ground level recharge, restoration of floodplains and riverine ecosystem,” he remarked.

He said as a signatory to the Ramsar Convention, Pakistan has been an active member of this global platform for conservation and wise use of wetlands resources. In Pakistan, there are about 225 wetlands, covering 780, 000 hectares, which makes up 10 percent of the country’s total land mass. As many as 19 of the all wetlands in the country have been designated as Ramsar Sites, having international significance in view of criteria of the Ramsar Convention, he said in his statement.

He said the Convention on Wetlands, called the ‘Ramsar Convention’, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

He said Pakistan has, so for, made tremendous efforts for conservation and management of wetlands and recalled that an exclusive seven-year mega project on wetlands, “Pakistan Wetlands Programme (2005-2012)” was implemented across the country involving all stakeholders and local communities.

Under the project, he said various remarkable achievement were made including baseline surveys of all wetlands across the country, training and capacity building of stakeholders, drafting of National Wetlands Policy, and discovery of peatlands and corals in Pakistan.

The evaluation of new sites for declaration as Ramsar Sites especially representing alpine ecosystem of northern Pakistan had been a landmark, the minister recalled.

“During Pakistan Wetlands Programme (PWP), mass awareness campaign across the country about the importance of wetlands, was another milestone achieved,” he said. He urge the people of across the country to pledge for sustainable use of natural resources and protection of wetlands across the country for our shared future.

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