Monday, February 26, 2024 | Sha'ban 15, 1445 H
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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Wetlands key to planet's well-being

The Environment Authority (EA) and other agencies make concrete efforts to preserve wetlands in the country by enacting laws and legislation to protect them and mitigate the impact of various human activities
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Wetlands cover approximately six per cent of the Earth's surface and are vital to health, ecology and tourism. On February 2 of every year, the world celebrates World Wetlands Day, which is a good opportunity for the world to come together to take urgent action to revive and restore these ecosystems, which are disappearing at a rate three times faster than forests.


World Wetlands Day is an annual observance that highlights the vital role of wetlands in our environment and raises awareness about their conservation and sustainable management. It provides an opportunity to celebrate the beauty and biodiversity of wetlands while also addressing the challenges they face. World Wetlands Day promotes the importance of preserving these unique ecosystems for current and future generations.


Wetlands key to planet's well-being
Wetlands key to planet's well-being


This year the theme is “Wetlands and human well-being” underscoring the need to recognise the significance of wetlands, which encompass a wide range of habitats, including marshes, swamps, bogs, and mangroves. These ecosystems play a crucial role in maintaining water quality, supporting biodiversity, mitigating climate change, and providing livelihoods for millions of people worldwide.


February 2 marks the adoption of the ‘Ramsar Convention on Wetlands’ in 1971, an international treaty aimed at conserving and sustainably using wetlands around the world.


Wetlands are defined as ecosystems where water is the main factor controlling the environment and the plant and animal life associated with it. According to the Ramsar Convention on wetlands, they are defined as “areas of marshes, swamps, submerged lands, or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with still or flowing water, fresh, brackish, or Salty, including areas of marine water, the depth of which does not exceed six metres in the case of low tide.


Wetlands key to planet's well-being
Wetlands key to planet's well-being


More than a billion people worldwide depend on wetlands for their livelihoods, while their shallow waters and abundant plant life support everything from insects to ducks to moose. Wetlands also play a crucial role in achieving sustainable development and in combating climate change. They provide essential ecosystem services such as water regulation, reducing the impact of floods, and providing a buffer against the effects of floods, droughts, hurricanes and tsunamis.


Wetlands have great economic importance in that they are a source of fish and animal wealth. They work to secure water reserves in terms of quantity and quality, sustainable agriculture and sustainable fishing, sustainable pastures, energy resources and wild resources. They also provide food and other products for human use. They are a source of aesthetic inspiration and part of Local cultural heritage.


Wetlands key to planet's well-being
Wetlands key to planet's well-being


Oman's Environment Authority (EA) and other agencies make concrete efforts to preserve wetlands in the country by enacting laws and legislation to protect them and mitigate the impact of various human activities.


The Environment Authority has declared a number of wetland sites as natural reserves, including the Al Akhwar Reserve in the Dhofar Governorate, the Wetland Reserve in Al Wusta Governorate, and the Qurum Natural Reserve in Muscat Governorate, which was also declared a “Ramsar” site of international importance in 2013.


In 2023, the EA implemented two projects for coastal wetland systems (lands that are permanently or intermittently submerged in water). The first project is concerned with surveying and inventorying coastal wetlands along the coast of the Sultanate of Oman.


Wetlands key to planet's well-being
Wetlands key to planet's well-being


In this project, 236 sites were registered, a third of which were in the Dhofar Governorate (80 sites). Thirty seven sites were identified to consider their suitability for declaring them as wetland sites of international importance within the standards of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.


The second project also focuses on preparing a methodology for selecting sites for planting mangrove trees by studying the environmental factors and conditions affecting the success of planting mangrove trees to achieve sustainability in planting projects for these trees. Through the national initiative to plant ten million trees, the EA planted more than a million and a half seeds of mangrove trees last year, and planted more than 68 thousand seedlings of these trees in various creeks in the coastal governorates.


TEXT AND PHOTOS BY YAHYA AL SALMANI


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