MEC urges preservation of wetlands

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Taung - MEC for Agriculture, Conservation and Environment, Jan Serfontein has urged communities to preserve wetlands so that future generations are able to benefit from them.

Speaking during an event to mark World Wetlands Day at the Thomeng Wetland next to the Cradle of Humankind heritage site on Monday, Mr Serfontein said many families depended on wetland areas for their livelihood and it was important that they used the land carefully and in a sustainable manner.

This would ensure that children can also benefit and enjoy the beauty of wetlands.

The MEC called on participating stakeholders in the province to intensify public awareness of wetlands values and benefits, especially at school level, saying South Africans need to be made aware of the great variety of wetlands ecosystems and people's dependence on them for their livelihood.

"We must be aware of the valuable nature of wetlands despite the fact that they preserve water for future use."

Among other things, communities use wetlands for cultural needs. These areas have a high content of organic matter and because of the important role they play in the hydrological cycle, make for good livestock grazing and serve as a valuable source of water.

They also provide feeding and breeding grounds for a large number of birds who are able to trap the water and reduce the risk of flooding in lower lying areas.

Some communities use the vegetation for crafts, by harvesting the reeds and weaving them into useable materials like bags and mats.

The department has identified eight wetlands which need to be rehabilitated within the Greater Taung Municipality. "We will work with communities and various stakeholders to come up with plans to develop and rehabilitate these wetlands," MEC Serfontein said.

"Our analysis is that most wetlands, including the ones existing in the Greater Taung Local municipality, need to be rehabilitated before they are completely destroyed by natural effects like climate change."

MEC Serfontein said with more than 500 wetlands existing in the North West, ranging from the mountain tops, like Seepage wetlands, downstream called Riverine wetlands, and in the flat area, called Floodplain wetlands, they still have much work to do to ensure their containment and proper use.

"Wetlands in this area in particular have lost the functionality of absorbing more water; thus the need to rehabilitate all wetlands in the area of Taung. In as much as we acknowledge these conditions which may be as a result of the climate change effects, you need to ask yourself what your contribution is in fighting the degradation of our wetlands."

World Wetlands Day is celebrated globally on 2 February every year and marks the day on which the Convention on Wetlands was signed in 1971, which promotes the conservation and the wise use of all wetland habitats.

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