Dubai: Around 40 per cent of all species in the world either live or breathe on wetlands. However, 76 per cent of these species in wetlands are threatened.
Highlighting the crucial importance of wetlands to our environment, the UAE will be hosting the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP13) on October 21 to 29, announced Dr Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment.
Themed ‘Wetlands for A Sustainable Urban Future’ and sponsored by Dubai Municipality, the upcoming 13th meeting of the countries that have adhered to the convention will review progress in implementation of the treaty, examine best practices for wetland management and discuss a range of ongoing and emerging environmental issues. More than 1,000 delegates representing governments and non-governmental organisations and academics will assemble in Dubai for the nine-day conference.
Wetlands of international importance in the UAE include seven Ramsar sites. These sites along with 2,316 sites across the world are designated by the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
“The need for an event such as COP13 is particularly relevant today as countries worldwide grapple with a sharp decline in biodiversity due to growing urbanisation and increased pressure on the land as well as due to climate change,” said Dr Al Zeyoudi.
He pointed out the UAE joined the convention in 2007 with seven sites that cover 34,978 hectares and three more sites to come.
Also speaking at the announcement event, Martha Rojas Urrego, secretary-general of Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, emphasised the significant benefits of wetlands on humanity.
“Most of the fresh water comes directly or indirectly from wetlands. They are also a source of food such as fish and rice, and they protect cities from storms and even droughts,” she said.
Urrego referred to a worrying trend that shows a decrease in the number of wetlands over decades.
“Since the last century, the number of wetlands globally has decreased by 64 per cent. Numbers also show that the number of wetlands have decreased by 87 per cent in past 300 years,” she said.
Urrego reiterated the need to spread awareness across governments and the civic society about the importance of wetlands, pointing out “the stakes could not be higher for this meeting”.
“Wetlands are being lost faster than any other ecosystem. Yet they are among the richest of ecosystems and provide vital benefits to people,” she said.
She further explained that they are essential to achieving the ambition of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and to countries’ efforts to combat and adapt to climate change.
“COP13 will provide a critical opportunity for the 170 contracting parties and the diverse range of stakeholders represented to mobilise the needed action to reverse wetlands loss and ensure that they contribute to sustainable development across the globe,” added Urrego.
What is the Ramsar convention?
The Ramsar Convention is an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971. The treaty provides for national action and international cooperation regarding the conservation of wetlands and wide sustainable use of their resources. It includes 170 parties and 2,323 Ramsar sites that cover a total surface of 248,503,054 ha. In 2007, the UAE joined 168 other countries in ratifying the Ramsar Convention. Since then, seven protected areas that account for nearly 35,000 hectares of the UAE have been designated as wetlands of international importance.
Seven wetlands in the UAE
• Sir Bu Nair Island in Sharjah
• Bul Syayeef Marine in Abu Dhabi
• Al Zora in Ajman
• Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary in Dubai
• Al Wathba Wetland Reserve in Abu Dhabi
• Wadi Wurayah National Park in Fujairah
• Mangrove and Al Hafeya Protected Area in Khor Kalba in Sharjah