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THE importance and value of wetlands will be celebrated at the Dorothy Nyembe Environmental Education Centre in Dobsonville, in Soweto, on Thursday, 23 February.

The 2012 theme for World Wetlands day is “Responsible tourism supports wetlands and people,” The 2012 theme for World Wetlands day is “Responsible tourism supports wetlands and people,” The City, in partnership with several governmental departments, will mark World Wetlands Day by sharing knowledge about the benefits of wetlands. World Wetlands Day takes place each year on 2 February. It marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar.

The Ramsar Convention, as it is known, embodies the commitment of its member countries to maintain the ecological character of their wetlands. This year the theme for World Wetlands Day is “Responsible tourism supports wetlands and people”.

With their natural beauty and biodiversity, wetlands make ideal locations for tourism. The income derived from this industry can be significant and can support livelihoods locally and nationally. “It is important to conserve and manage our wetlands as they are vital in the reduction of the severity of droughts and floods,” said the City spokesperson, Nkosinathi Nkabinde.

Wetlands are areas where water is a dominant feature of the habitat. They include coastal lagoons, areas of marsh and the habitat around lakes and rivers. They make up about six percent of Earth’s land surface and are home to an incredibly diverse array of plants and animals.

Many species of bird rely on wetlands for breeding and feeding and will often migrate many miles to reach them. Wetlands also perform a valuable regulatory function as they trap silt and hold water, as well as ameliorate the intensity of floods.

They also provide other benefits for local communities, for example, reeds that grow in abundance in wetlands are used as fibres for making crafts, such as woven baskets, which support the livelihoods of many people. Medicinal plants that can be of great value also grow in wetlands.

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