The Independent (Kampala)

Uganda: Citizens to Celebrate World Wetlands Day

The Minister for Water and Environment Eprahim Kamuntu says Uganda will join the international community to celebrate the World Wetlands Day under the theme "Wetlands and Water Management."

He says the Ramsar Convention is an inter-governmental treaty, which provides a framework for national action and international cooperation for conservation and wise-use of wetlands and their resources.

Currently the total number of Contracting Parties to the Convention is 164 with Zimbabwe being the latest signatory. It is important to note that the Ramsar Convention is the only convention that deals singly with wetlands. It is therefore a privilege that Uganda is a signatory to such a convention- the broad aim of which is to halt the worldwide loss of wetlands and to conserve them through wise-use and management because of the invaluable benefits we get from them.

In a press release that the Independent has its copy says this day provides a unique opportunity for all stakeholders who are engaged in the management of wetlands and environment in general, to reflect on the status of our wetland resources, efforts made to conserve them and lay concrete strategies for their wise use.

Kamuntu says "The World Wetlands Day is celebrated internationally to create further awareness and appreciation among the international community about the importance of wetlands and the innumerable values and benefits they provide to the environment and humankind such as water purification, recharge and discharge in space and time."

Since 1997, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and citizens at all levels of the community have undertaken actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits in general and the Ramsar Convention in particular. This year the theme for the World Wetlands Day 2013 is "Wetlands and Water Management" and the slogan: "Wetlands Take Care of Water"- a very timely theme because as we may all appreciate water is life and is increasingly becoming a scarce resource.

He says the international theme for this year is very appropriate because it brings out the need to manage wetlands because of the critical role they play in the hydrological cycle, water supply, quantity and quality. Water remains the single denominator that will not change due to the multiplicity role it plays in nature and for people.

Kamuntu appeals to the general public to remember that without wetlands you cannot have water and without water we cannot have life and without life creation will cease to exist.

He says that it has been proven that most of our water sources are fed by wetlands, whose unique function of water storage and retention ensures its availability throughout the year ensuring that populations living adjacent to them can continue to have water for livestock, domestic use, and irrigation and for drinking.

Furthermore, because of their absorption capacity wetlands not only avert flooding but also ensure that the water in them moves slowly to replenish different sources making them the "granaries" for many communities.

Wetlands aid rain formation through evapo-transpiration where water vapour is released into the atmosphere leading to cloud formation and subsequently rainfall. Wetlands therefore contribute towards balancing of the hydrological cycle by maintaining both surface and underground water supply and quality.

While the matter of safe drinking water cannot be overemphasized, water-associated infectious diseases claim 3.2 million lives annually, approximately 6% of all deaths globally; in the Ugandan case, this percentage is likely to be higher.

Kamuntu noted that wetlands are indispensable resources for water treatment, storage and distribution in time and space. Therefore without wetlands we cannot be assured of quality water for our population.

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