Why we protect wetlands

World Wetlands Day

Kenya Forest Research Institute ( KEFRI) officials together with members of the community plant mangrove seedlings at Mida Creek in Kilifi County to mark the World Wetlands Day on February 3, 2021.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • It said over 40 per cent of plants and animal species live and breed on wetlands.
  • Most worrying, wetlands diminish three times faster than forests.

February 2 is World Wetlands Day. According to the “Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services”, by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), wetlands cover six per cent of the world and a paltry 3-4 per cent of Kenya. 

It said over 40 per cent of plants and animal species live and breed on wetlands. Most worrying, wetlands diminish three times faster than forests.

The theme for this year’s event is “Wetlands Action for People and Nature”, which highlights the importance of actions to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands for humans and planetary health. Environmentalists are already shouting themselves hoarse, seeking attention, but do we even understand the need to preserve wetlands?

First, among others, wetlands purify water, hold most aquatic food, protect us from floods, offer breeding grounds for many aquatic lives and fuel our economy as it keeps many people employed.

Conserve the wetlands

But we see new structures mushroom everyday along the wetlands. Even shocking is that institutions that are mandated to help us to conserve the wetlands are the same ones issuing authorisation letters, approvals for construction and so on to these encroachers. But wetlands are not wastelands.

The effects of last year’s rising lake levels were dire and people suffered massive losses. But the river levels subsided and we went back to normal. 

Whenever I drive along Kisumu City’s Impala-Dunga road, which snakes proudly on a wetland, it is clear that in the next 10 years the paltry wetland coverage will be gone, given the buildings coming up there. To see beauty of our small wetlands, visit the coastal areas. Some areas are well preserved.

What are we passing down to our children? Let’s plant trees and the relevant vegetation on our wetlands. We found the world a good place; it’s our turn to make and leave it even better for the generations to come. We only have today to make a difference.

Ms Odongo is head of corporate affairs and communication, Kisumu Water and Sanitation Company (Kiwasco). [email protected]

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