Wetlands and Water
by Zi Ni Lucy Wong/Malaysia
Edited by Cécilia Razafinirinamaharavo/Madagascar
Graphic from the ATO - Mag-aba Mangrove Reforestation Project (2018)
In all the global wetlands, water serves as an essential element of the ecosystem. The fluidity connects and supports every life in water, for instance, the sedimentation of soil particles, the upcycling of nutrients, the filtration of saltwater, and the uptake and storage of water from the water cycle. Water is continuing to be recycled and purified in the wetland ecosystem, for the beneficial usage of the biodiversity and the community along the watercourse, be it stagnant or flowing water.
Every year on 2 February, the world celebrates World Water Day, which marks the day of adopting the Convention of Wetlands on the same date in 1971. This year, the celebration has continued with the theme of "Wetlands and Water" to raise awareness of the fluid element's vitality that connects all life on Earth. NASA has announced 2020 as the hottest year recorded earlier this year. Country governments, corporate bodies, and civil society have to recognize that natural resources management's future planning has to prioritize Solution (NBS) strategy in adaptation to climate change. Since the last century, humans have intensively depended on the extraction of natural resources for livelihoods and development, especially after the agriculture and industrial revolution where lands vastly expanded for agricultural usage and city development. Hence, with the alarming warning from the natural system, it's time for human beings to recentre the role of natural resources in human development.
Wetlands can be categorized into freshwater and saltwater wetlands, and the water in the watercourse can be stagnant or flowing. However, given the broad definition, they only cover merely 7% of the Earth’s surface, while providing more than 95% of water resources to human activities, with the rest from groundwater supply. Although, IPBES has identified that more than 85% of wetlands have lost due to ineffective management of wetland areas. The global water crisis also exacerbates the loss implications of wetlands due to the rising population trend and demand for clean water resources.
Human beings need to incorporate a significant paradigm shift on wetlands in human utilization to ensure effective management and protection to the world's remaining realm of wetlands today. In the past centuries, instead of valuing the role of wetlands for its rich resources and substantial potential in disaster reduction, human regards wetlands as a harbor of disease, useless land with low productivity. However, ever since science has been improving, wetland policy has begun to shift from encouraging extractions and reclamation to protecting and sustainable utilization. Moving into the 21st century, we need to stop destroying the remaining wetlands, instead start planning for restoring wetlands and their biodiversity, to ensure continuous water supply. Encourage policy that opposes rivers dam projects, and over-extraction of aquifers. It is also crucial to address pollution in existing wetlands and plan effective cleanup strategies, especially freshwater sources. Despite effective planning, using water wisely is also a vital strategy to increase water efficiency. Human consumption and behavioral changes are expected to go in hand with sustainable wetlands resources management in development plans to unleash the tremendous potential in restoring the world’s remaining wetlands ecosystem.
Many communities around the world are still facing a shortage and lack of accessibility to clean water supply. As global citizens, we need to recognize that every drop of water we use is something the other citizens need to fight for accessibility and protection for sustainable consumption.
"When the water stops flowing, the river stops breathing, and humans stop drinking."
Lucy Wong is one of the new Science and Solutions Advisers in the ATO - ClimatEducate Project. She has a bachelors degree in Environmental Science from The National University of Malaysia. She is also one of the delegates from the Malaysia Youth Delegation, representing the youth sector of Malaysia in international climate-related conferences. Her research and community project focus areas are in marine mammal conservation, GIS and Remote sensing, and Environmental Policy and Law.
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