The Federal Ministry of the Environment and Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) commemorated World Wetlands Day (WWD) on Tuesday, February 2, 2021 through a webinar.
The theme for this year’s event was “Wetlands and Water” and it reflected on challenges and solutions surrounding the conservation of wetlands in Nigeria. WWD is an annual global event used to highlight the need to protect wetlands and their biodiversities. Estimates show that wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests.
In his keynote address, Dr. Muhammad Mahmood Abubakar, Honourable Minister of the Environment said that the functions and importance of wetlands cannot be overemphasized. He said: “Wetlands contribute immensely to tackling climate change challenges by enhancing the adaptation and resilience capacity of the ecosystems, provide nature-based climate solutions and address socio-economic challenges such as water pollution, erosion, food security, human health and disaster risk management by restoring water catchments.”
He observed that the resources attributed to the wetlands in Nigeria are highly valuable as they contain a variety of reptiles, mammals, amphibians and bird’s species.
“Unfortunately, these rich ecosystems are being threatened and lost at an alarming rate due to population pressure; poverty; deforestation; intensive cultivation; oil and gas exploration, industrial waste pollution; coastal and marine erosion; overgrazing as well as climate change. we must all recognize the need for urgent intervention.” He added.
Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, Director General of NCF in his presentation titled “Inseparable: water, wetlands and life” identified some basic environmental importance of wetlands as capturing and storing rainwater; replenishing ground water aquifers; regulating water quantity and supply by releasing water at the right time to the right place in the right amounts; improving water quality by removing and absorbing pollutants.
He said “Wetlands sustain life and keep us healthy. Healthy watersheds provide natural, safe drinking water and support food production. Wetlands give us much of the fish we eat and is used in cultivating rice for 3.5 billion people globally. Wetlands are important for biodiversity as 40% of the world’s species live in wetlands, with 200 new fish species discovered in freshwater wetlands annually.”
He proposed interventions such as awareness creation, habitat restoration, and livelihood improvement as part of solutions to stop further degradation of wetlands and help in their restoration.
In his remark, Mr. Sean Melbourne, Head of Climate Change & Energy West Africa, British High Commission said that wetlands provide some ecosystem services such as water regulation, flood control, water filtration and freshwater supply.
He revealed “If rainforests are the lungs of the planet, then wetlands are the kidneys. Wetlands teem with biodiversity, providing homes and hunting grounds for several species and livelihoods for millions of people. They are part of our natural infrastructure, providing essential protection against environmental issues like drought and pollution.”
In her closing remark, Chief Sharon Ikeazor said that the Niger-Delta is the largest wetland in Africa and the 3rd largest mangrove forest in the world. She believed that commemoration such as this will raise a voice for the restoration of wetlands, especially in our country
Nigeria has 11 wetlands of international importance (Ramsar Sites). The total area is about 1,076,728 hectares.
These sites include: Lake Chad wetlands in Borno State; Dagona Sanctuary Lake, Yobe State; Hadejia-Nguru Lake, Jigawa & Yobe States; Maladumba Lake, Bauchi State; Baturiya wetland, Jigawa; Foge Islands, Kebbi State; Apoi Creek Forests, Bayelsa State; Padam & Wase Lakes, Plateau State, Upper Orashi Forests, Rivers State; Oguta Lake, Imo State and Lower Kaduna-Middle Niger Floodplain, Niger State.
Wetlands are a critical part of our natural environment. They protect our shores from wave action, reduce the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality. They provide habitat for animals and plants and many contain a wide diversity of life, supporting plants and animals that are found nowhere else.