Happy World Wetlands Day




by Karen Topakian 

Did you have fun on Tuesday celebrating World Wetlands Day? It’s not a big holiday. Nobody gets dressed up in costumes. Large family gatherings don’t occur. Religious observances don’t take place. Sadly, it’s not even a candy holiday. I bet you couldn’t find a Happy World Wetlands Day card in your local card store, if you tried. 

Nonetheless we should celebrate wetlands.  Because…

they capture and hold rainfall and snow melt, retain sediments and purify water, playing a vital role in the water cycle. Wetlands play a major role in supporting aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity. Poor management strategies can cause wetland related diseases that claim the lives of millions of people each year. Pollution from agriculture and human waste contribute to the health of wetlands and our fresh water supply.

This under celebrated holiday began on February 2, 1971, at the first ecologically focused convention that took place in Ramsar, Iran where countries from around the world met and signed the Convention on Wetlands. In the past 39 years, 158 countries have signed the Treaty and 169 million hectares of wetlands (1828 sites) have been designated as Wetlands of International Importance.

Don’t be fooled, the problem isn’t solved.

For example, on the tiny Caribbean island of St. Maarten, which is a signatory to the Convention, their ponds have been reduced by 50 percent in the last 15 years. From 10 to five. How does this happen? And it’s not unique to St. Maarten. But when zoning plans and wetland protection legislation are not developed, implemented and enforced. The wetlands disappear. Since coastal habitats provide primary targets for economic development, wetlands protection struggles to compete. 

The good news… a few local groups work hard to counter the development, Environmental Protection in the Caribbean, St. Maarten Pride Foundation, Nature Foundation and the Seaside Nature Park.  

If by accident you did destroy some wetlands on World Wetlands Day, please restore them immediately.