24 January 2013

Namibia: The Country's Fifth Ramsar Site On the Way

PLANS are underway to declare the Lower Okavango River in the Mahango Section of the Bwabwata National Park as Namibia's fifth Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar site), The Namibian has learnt.

Wetlands provide a number of goods and services to people around the world. Apart from providing fish, reeds and thatching grass, they help to prevent erosion, improve water quality, stabilise climate and recharge aquifers.

The Namibian has seen a Cabinet document in which the Ministry of Environment and Tourism made a submission seeking permission to list the Lower Okavango River as a Wetland of International Importance.

Namibia is a party to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance of 1971.

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism said the Lower Okavango River has been identified as a potential wetland of international importance. The area falls within the Bwabwata National Park and comprises the river itself and the adjacent floodplains and forest.

The area contains the highest diversity of bird species in Namibia, which includes rare species such as the slaty egret and Pel's fishing owl and there are also several endemic plant species in the wetland.

The ministry said listing the area as a Ramsar site would once again demonstrate Namibia's commitment to conservation, especially the conservation of its wetlands, and would add additional status to this part of the Bwabwata National Park.

Reliable sources said the ministry had been given the green light to declare the area a Ramsar site. The ministry made the submission on November 23 last year.

It costs nothing to list an area as a Ramsar site, but monitoring and managing the wetland will require funding.

Namibia's existing four Ramsar sites are the Orange River Mouth, Sandwich Harbour, Etosha Pan and the Walvis Bay Lagoon.

At the 14th conference of parties to the Ramsar Convention in July last year, the convention celebrated its 40th anniversary and contracting parties were requested to mark the occasion by adding more wetlands to the list of wetlands of international importance.

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