Annually South Africa, and many other countries in the world, celebrate wetlands day during the month of February; a month that is set aside to continuously strive to bring awareness and behaviour change towards the conservation of wetlands.
What is a wetland?
It is an area covered with a shallow layer of water (temporary or permanent) and has distinct plants that are adapted to water saturated soils, for example marshes, swamps and vleis. Wetlands are beneficial to both land and water organisms. They are important for a number of reasons, primarily they provide habitat for a number of organisms, purify and store water, absorb wind forces and provide places of beauty for a diverse number of recreational activities.
Anthropogenic activities have altered the function and quality of wetlands resulting in the loss of species, habitat loss, increase in flood events and rapid decline on water quality due to the presence of pollutants in river streams.
Effects of Wetland Destruction
The continuous destruction of wetlands has a long term effect and is not limited to loss of species diversity as a result of ecosystem collapse, habitat loss. Plants and animals are forced to emigrate or die as the area becomes unfavourable for survival, there is an increase in flooding events (water is not trapped during heavy flows) and decline in water quality (pollutants and other matter are not filtered, hence they enter water systems).
What you can do
It is important that everybody is involved in the many initiatives in place to conserve this resource. Communities can be proactive by:
- Knowledge is power- Find out more about wetlands and what other departments - both local and national - are doing to protect wetlands.
- Become community informants - Report any illegal activities occurring near or in wetlands.
- Becoming community ambassadors - Be involved in initiatives or groups that protect and educate the general community about the benefits and consequences if wetlands are not protected.
Ekurhuleni has a specialised unit called Natural Resources (Wetlands) Unit; its primary responsibility is for monitoring, maintaining and evaluating the status of wetlands in the Ekurhuleni region. The work scope varies from identifying and removing of alien invasive plants inhabiting wetlands to the rehabilitation of degraded wetlands through the construction of gabions and concrete weirs to prevent soil erosion.
- International Wetlands Day is celebrated on 2 February.
- Ekurhuleni’s Environmental Resource Management Department will celebrate Wetlands Day on 27 February 2015.
- February is regarded as Wetlands Month.