‘Wise use’ of our wetlands

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos February 05,2017 - 08:46 PM
Atty. Gloria Ramos

Atty. Gloria Ramos

Wetlands are vital for human survival. They are among the world’s most productive environments; cradles of biological diversity that provide the water and productivity upon which countless species of plants and animals depend for survival.

“Wetlands are indispensable for the countless benefits or ‘ecosystem services’ that they provide humanity, ranging from freshwater supply, food and building materials, and biodiversity, to flood control, groundwater recharge, and climate change mitigation.

“Yet study after study demonstrates that wetland area and quality continue to decline in most regions of the world. As a result, the ecosystem services that wetlands provide to people are compromised” (Ramsar website, http://www.ramsar.org/about/the-importance-of-wetlands).

February 2 is celebrated annually as the World Wetlands Day. It is the anniversary date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (popularly known as the Ramsar Convention) in Ramsar, Iran, on 2 February 1971.

The annual observance is meant to raise awareness on the importance of wetlands and sustain initiatives and action to promote its value, wise use and conservation. “Wise use” means “the maintenance of their ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development.” It means “the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and all the services they provide, for the benefit of people and nature” (http://www.ramsar.org/about/the-wise-use-of-wetlands).

The Ramsar Convention covers all types of wetland from the mountains to the sea, “all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans” (http://www.ramsar.org/about/the-importance-of-wetlands)

The range of ecosystem services provided by the wetlands for free cover provisioning, regulating, habitat and cultural services (http://www.ramsar.org/sites/default/files/documents/library/teeb_waterwetlands_report_2013.pdf).

Likewise, according to a scientific paper, “coastal wetlands — mangrove forests, tidal marshes and seagrass meadows — are incredible long-term carbon sinks, storing carbon in the plants themselves but more importantly in the soils below for hundreds to thousands of years. In fact, the same area of coastal wetlands can be more efficient as a carbon sink than most terrestrial forests” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/iucn-planet-at-the-crossroads/mangroves-and-marshes-key_b_14566424.html).

Sadly, not many are aware of the importance of wetlands to humanity and the planet. They are seen as “wastelands” and in Cebu and many parts of the country, are subjected to severe pressures in the form of reclamation projects and other infrastructure projects.

As contracting party, we committed to work towards the wise use of all the wetlands and water resources in our territory, through national plans, policies and legislation, management actions and public education.

We also undertook to designate suitable wetlands within our territory for inclusion in a List of Wetlands of International Importance. These are called Ramsar Sites and has both national and international status. They are recognized as being of significant value not only for our country but for humanity as a whole.

There are seven (7) Ramsar sites in the Philippines which include our very own Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Cebu; Palawan’s Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park; Naujan Lake in Oriental Mindoro; Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) Sanctuary; Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary; and the latest to be declared, the Negros Occidental Coastal Wetlands Conservation Area (NOWCA). The country’s 7th Ramsar site is a “contiguous coastline of more than 109 kilometers, 90.000ha covering 52 coastal barangays within three cities and seven municipalities” (http://snrd-asia.org/negros-occidental-wetlands-hailed-as-the-7th-ramsar-site-in-the-philippines/).

This year’s observance of World Wetlands Day is quite significant, coming on the heels of the much-applauded action by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources led by Secretary Gina Lopez who ordered the demolition of structures in a mangrove area in Palawan which was mercilessly converted into a subdivision project. How many of such vital and fragile ecosystems were and are being destroyed to give way to shopping areas and subdivision projects, we can only guess. It is high time that our wetlands are protected by serious enforcement of our laws. Finally, the national agency is led by a woman who cares for us and our environment.

Another woman leader is also leading the activity to celebrate the 2017 World Wetlands Day with the theme, “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction” on February 16, 2017 (Thursday), 7:00 a.m. at the LPPCHEA grounds. Senator Cynthia Villar invites all sectors to join the opening program, coastal cleanup and various lectures on taking care of our wetlands and on disaster risk reduction.

One favorite woman leader stands out when it comes to the advocacy to protect mangroves. She is Dr. Jurgenne Primavera, named by Time magazine as one of the Heroes of the Environment for 2008, for her work in promoting sustainable fish farming by protecting and promoting the planting of mangroves. She says that “Mangroves provide a wide array of goods and services, including coastal protection, shoreline protection, flood regulation, fish/invertebrate nurseries, [and] wildlife habitat. Therefore, conserving and restoring mangroves will mean making these goods and services, particularly protection from typhoons and storm surges, available to coastal towns and villages, improving fisheries’ catches and incomes of fishers and providing food security for all — including urban dwellers” (http://www.femalenetwork.com/lifestyle/features/dr-jurgenne-honculadaprimavera-environmental-champion-and-heroine).

Stakeholders should seriously look at the causes of the rapid decline of our wetlands and work together on solutions such as co mmunity-based and integrated coastal area management, among a plethora of options.

Subscribe to our regional newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.
Read Next

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of Cebudailynews. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

TAGS: 10th Boracay International Dragon Boat Festival, Cebu, Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, environment, international, Nature, survival, wetlands

Subscribe to our regional newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and
acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.