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Pacific Wetlands take Care of Water

Pacific Wetlands take Care of Water

World Wetlands Day, 2 February 2013

“It’s all too easy to take the availability of safe drinking water for granted and, for some, it is not until we are without that we fully realise the vital role that water plays in our lives.

In the Pacific Islands, our wetlands take care of water.

Wetlands such as rivers, lakes, water catchments and underground aquifers play an important part in supplying water to our communities in the Pacific. We could describe our wetlands as the natural infrastructure for managing water as they store and provide the water for which our human consumption and production needs are met.

This World Wetlands Day on 2 February, it is time to reflect upon the importance of wetlands and their role in water management and thus, in our lives. It is time also to take stock of what we can do as individuals to strengthen the health and resilience of Pacific Wetlands so that they can continue to provide water for us all.

In Samoa, Lake Lanoto’o, designated a “Wetland of International Importance”, is the largest permanent freshwater lake in Samoa. It has a valuable ecological role in maintaining the health of the water supply of the capital city, Apia. The main catchment and sub-catchments of Lake Lanoto’o are tapped to meet the increasing demand for drinking water and for hydro electricity generation.

Unfortunately, unsustainable land use practices in and around wetlands of some high lands have led to decreased water quality and runoff that adversely affects important coastal marine ecosystems and species that are important for both commercial and subsistence purposes.

River catchments of the Pacific Islands region are also under increasing pressure from conversion for agriculture, diversion or modification for water supply or hydropower generation, commercial logging, catchment alteration, pollution and invasive species.

At the national level, there is often a lack of knowledge and relevant strategies for the management and wise use of these wetland ecosystems. Furthermore, local communities are often unaware of the likely impacts of proposed changes to these wetlands.

Without wetlands there would be no water. When we protect our natural wetlands we are preventing them from being degraded or lost as they provide sufficient supply and quality of water to satisfy all of our needs.

The Pacific Islands are implementing the Regional Wetlands Action Plan for the Pacific Islands 2011-2013 which aims to protect and conserve wetlands so that they continue to provide their valuable ecosystem services for Pacific peoples, one of which is water storage and provision.

The Upper Navua Conservation Area, a “Wetland of International Importance” for Fiji, encompasses the upper part of the Navua River, which is the third largest freshwater drainage of Fiji. It plays a significant role in the ecological health of the entire drainage and provides the necessary supplies and food for the communities in the area. It also provides a wide range of ecosystem services to the entire water catchment area including flood control for lower areas.

In our communities our wetlands take care of water, so let’s:

• STOP disposing rubbish and other wastes in our rivers and streams or report those doing this to your local Environment department.
• ORGANISE a clean-up activity for your rivers and associated streams.
• SPREAD the word to both young and old about the important role wetlands play and the need for their protection.

Remember this and take on the role of protecting our wetlands in whatever way you can as natural solutions provide a resilient Pacific.

Happy World Wetlands Day.

ENDS

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