World Wetlands Day 2008 -- Botswana

20/02/2008

World Wetland Day 2008
A Message from the Secretary General, Maun, Botswana, 2nd February 2008.

Honorable Minister,
Honorable Members of Parliament,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors,
Distinguished officials from Gaborone and from Maun,
Distinguished guest,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am here today to celebrate World Wetland Day 2008 with you and to encourage all stakeholders taking action to implement the multi-sectoral plan for the conservation and wise use of the complex but fragile jewel of Africa, the Okavango Delta. This multi-sectoral plan is officially launched today and I wish to express our appreciation and encouragement to all stakeholders. The Okavango Delta Management Plan (ODMP) has been achieved through the collaborative efforts of 12 sectoral components anchored within ten organizations and this is an outstanding collaborative achievement.

I am happy to take part in this event and to convey the encouragement of the Ramsar Convention Secretariat to the government and to the people of Botswana, including the communities, the private sector, the NGO/CBO and the policy makers. I also wish to thank IUCN-The World Conservation Union, The United States of America and Sweden for the support provided in this process. I thank Angola and Namibia for taking action with Botswana to establish the Permanent Okavango River Basin Commission (OKACOM). I thank the University of Botswana Harry Oppenheimer Okavango Research Centre (HOOORC) for the scientific and technical support.

World Wetlands Day provides all of us with an opportunity to join together with our colleagues around the world to celebrate the benefits that we all receive from wetlands, and to help raise the awareness of our fellow citizens about the importance of these vital ecosystems for our common future.

Whether we are talking about swamps and bogs, peatlands, rivers and lakes, estuaries and coastal zones, coral reefs or rice paddies, we understand that wetlands are essential for the supply of fresh water, maintenance of biodiversity, mitigation of the effects of climate change, groundwater recharge and flood control - and so many other so-called "ecosystem services" - and we want to get that message out to decision-makers and citizens in our communities.

Each year since the first World Wetlands Day, in 1997, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, with the generous support of the Danone Group, has produced materials that are meant to help everyone planning awareness activities to liven up their events with our posters, stickers, information sheets, animations, and so on. And each year we have tried to bring a timely focus to the events by suggesting a unifying theme to highlight some particular aspect of the wetland message.

For this year, 2008, we have suggested the theme of Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People, an especially appropriate one for us because that will also be the theme for Ramsar's 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties later in the year in the Republic of Korea.

We hope that the materials we are providing this year will help to introduce to the Ramsar community, and the people you reach out to, a few key topics that show both the direct, positive effects on human health of maintaining healthy wetlands - such as the provision of food, clean water, pharmaceutical products, etc. - and the direct negative effects of mismanaging wetlands that can result in harm to our health and even the loss of life - such as through the effects of water-related diseases, burning peatlands, floods, and water pollution.

We are trying to emphasize that the strong relationship between healthy functioning wetland ecosystems and human health underlines the huge importance of management strategies that support both the health of wetlands and the health of humans. And that the costs of poor management can be high - wetland-related diseases, for example, claim the lives of more than 3 million people every year and bring suffering to many more.

Therefore, the Secretariat needs to seek additional sources of information to promote an effective recognition of the tangible values of wetlands by relevant organizations and to stimulate interest and concern for wetland issues through exchanges of persuasive facts about:

  • wetlands and biodiversity conservation and sustainable use
  • wetlands and water supply
  • wetlands and food security
  • wetlands and human health
  • wetlands and poverty reduction
  • wetlands and energy/extractive industries
  • wetlands and tourism
  • wetlands and urban development
  • wetlands and protected areas.

In this spirit, our reporting system should encompass not only the work of the Administrative Authorities but also the important contribution of key players in land use, water management, biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, desertification control, climate change mitigation and adaptation, agriculture, sanitation, and rural/urban development.

To that end, the assistance of the Secretariat to Contracting Parties is done with the aim of enhancing collaboration with key organizations with a stake in wetlands, water, biodiversity, land use, and climate change. At local and national levels we will support the involvement of those who are affected by and interested in wetland conservation and wise use but also those who are affected, but not interested, and those who are not affected, but interested.

We in the Ramsar Secretariat wish all of you a successful World Wetlands Day, whatever you may be planning to do for the occasion. And, of course, as always, we thank you sincerely for all of your efforts on behalf of the health of the world's wetlands.

Mr Anada Tiega
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

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