World Wetlands Day -- Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program


Press Release: News 18-Jan-08

Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program

Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People

On February the second 1971, in the small Iranian town of Ramsar, a convention was adopted by 18 countries to promote the conservation and wise use of the world’s wetlands. Now, 37 years later the Ramsar Convention has grown to include 158 countries worldwide. Five of these are Pacific island countries: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Republic of Palau, and Samoa.

The Ramsar Convention promotes the Conservation and wise, sustainable use of wetlands around the world and works to ensure that the goods and services provided by wetlands are maintained well into the future. Wetlands are areas where water is the primary factor controlling the environment and the associated plant and animal life. The Ramsar definition of wetlands is very broad and so covers everything from lakes and rivers to mangroves and coral reefs.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) works to assist the Pacific islands countries that are Ramsar signatories to meet their obligations under the Ramsar Convention. SPREP also provides assistance to interested non-party Pacific Island countries in their efforts to lay the groundwork prior to joining the convention. SPREP’s Associate Ramsar Officer, Vainuupo Jungblut, believes the Convention is a vital tool for preserving Pacific wetlands:

“I think that the convention is quite important at this time with a lot of development happening for Pacific islands countries. It has been identified that coral reefs and mangroves are the critical wetland habitats for the Pacific islands region and to date these are largely unappreciated. A lot of mangroves are used as rubbish dumps and are seen as wastelands that serve little or no purpose. But, in actual fact mangroves have a big role to play in coastal protection and serve as potential storehouses for medicines and food. They also provide breeding grounds for important reef fish and some pelagic species.”

One of the obligations of being a party to the Ramsar Convention is the designation of at least one site to be listed on the List of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar List). Within the Pacific, Lake Lanotoo in Samoa, Lake Ngardok in Palau and Lake Kutubu & Tonda Wildlife Management Area in Papua New Guinea are among the listed sites. The convention also encourages countries to promote the conservation of their existing Ramsar sites and to add further sites to the list in the future. Jungblut added:

“One of the main benefits of the convention is that Ramsar listing brings increased prestige and publicity to the site. That would attract possible technical assistance and open up the country to the Convention’s extensive networks of experts, guidelines and systems to properly manage and wisely use the resources of their wetlands.”

This year on the second of February is the World Wetlands Day to celebrate the Ramsar Convention and commemorate the importance of our wetlands. The theme for this years’ event is “Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People,” focusing on the positives of maintaining healthy wetlands including the provision of food, medicines and clean water. The event also calls attention to the negative impacts on human health resulting from poor wetland management, such as water-related diseases from poor sanitation, floods and water pollution.

“Good wetland and water management will maximise the positives and help minimise the negatives,” said Jungblut.

Contact Name Vainuupo Jungblut
Phone (685) 21929
Fax (685) 20231

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The Convention today

Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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