World Wetlands Day 2009 -- SPREP
SPREP Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
30 January 2009
Secretariat of the
Upstream, downstream - wetlands connect us all
On the second of February, Pacific nations that are a party to the Convention on Wetlands will be celebrating the importance of wetlands through special national events focusing on this year’s theme of “upstream, downstream - wetlands connect us all.”
Awareness of the value of wetlands is particularly important given the increasing pressure placed on the river catchments of the Pacific islands. Conversion for agriculture, diversion or modification for water supply or hydropower generation, commercial logging, catchment alteration, pollution and invasive species are just several of the demands being placed upon Pacific river catchments.
“Historically, availability of freshwater has been a defining factor in the settlement of the Pacific islands, whether on high islands or atolls. Water was a precious resource that enabled societies either to thrive or merely survive, or move on in search of more sustainable environments. Availability of water is still a critical factor in the sustainable development of islands, especially in the context of a changing climate,” said Stuart Chape, Islands Ecosystems Programme Manager of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) .
“Conservation and use of water must be linked to watershed protection and improved planning, not only in terms of water as a resource but also wetland ecosystems. The recent devastating floods in Fiji highlight the importance of managing and respecting the connectivity and functioning of riverine wetlands from catchment to the sea.”
The Republic of Palau is holding an essay competition for the community of Melekeok on the importance of wetlands. They will observe World Wetlands Day on Sunday with a special ceremony after church services at the Lake Ngardok Nature Reserve, their first designated Ramsar site. It is there that awards will be presented to the winners of the essay competition.
Fiji plans to celebrate the day with media awareness activities including the distribution of wetland awareness posters to schools. They will also be officially launching a Ramsar small grant-funded project to improve the management of Fiji’s first Ramsar site, the Upper Navua Conservation Area. They will also be holding a national wetland steering committee meeting on the second of February.
In Samoa, a range of media awareness and promotions will take place over the weekend along with the raising of a special banner in central Apia. On Monday there will be an upgrading and cleaning of Lake Lanotoo National Park, Samoa’s first designated Ramsar site.
The Republic of the Marshall Islands will be utilising the wisdom and experience of elders of the Jaluit Atoll Conservation Area, their first designated Ramsar site. They will be sharing stories with students in the schools about the importance of mangrove areas from a traditional perspective.
“I applaud the active enthusiasm and commitment from the region in getting the message across about the various significant functions that wetlands play in their daily lives. These efforts continue to increase awareness and are key to changing behaviour, attitudes and perceptions towards these precious ecosystems, which, for the most part have been marginalized and afforded a low priority throughout the world,” said Vainuupo Jungblut, Associate Ramsar Officer with SPREP.
There are five Pacific islands nations who are party to the International Convention on Wetlands, which was signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar on 2 February 1971: Fiji, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Samoa. Kiribati and Nauru are currently in the process of becoming signatories.
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