By Mark Cabrera
The Boracay Inter Agency Task Force (BIATF) celebrated the World Wetlands Day with barangay officials and community members. Commemorated worldwide on the second of February every year, World Wetlands Day hopes to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and our planet. This day also marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
According to the Ramcar Convention, wetlands are land areas that are saturated or flooded with water either permanently or seasonally. Inland wetlands include marshes, ponds, lakes, fens, rivers, floodplains, and swamps. Coastal wetlands include saltwater marshes, estuaries, mangroves, lagoons and even coral reefs. Fishponds, rice paddies, and saltpans are human-made wetlands.
“Wetlands and Biodiversity” is the theme for 2020. Wetlands are rich with biodiversity and are a habitat for a dense variety of plant and animal species. Latest estimates show a global decline of biodiversity, while wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests. This year's theme is a unique opportunity to highlight wetland biodiversity, its status, why it matters, and to promote actions to reverse its loss.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the leading global environmental authority, stresses that wetlands are vital for humans, for other ecosystems and for our climate, providing essential ecosystem services such as water regulation, including flood control and water purification. Wetland biodiversity matters for our health, our food supply, for tourism and for jobs. Wetlands also absorb carbon dioxide and help slow global heating and reduce pollution; hence have often been referred to as the “Kidneys of the Earth”.
Though wetlands cover only around 6 percent of the Earth’s land surface, 40 percent of all plant and animal species live or breed in wetlands. The worrying thing is that they are disappearing three times faster than forests due to human activities and global heating.
“Wetlands are fantastically valuable multifunctional habitats—they nurture a great diversity of life, provide water and other resources, protect us from flooding and act as giant filters easing pollution,” says Corli Pretorius, Deputy-Director of the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre. “The loss of wetlands due to development pressure has been enormous, but these ecosystems can be restored to generate benefits for people and nature.”
Boracay Island Wetlands
According to Al Orolfo, Deputy Ground Commander of BIATF, there are nine wetlands in Boracay Island alone that were deteriorating as quickly as the forestland. In fact, a few of them were illegally developed with resorts, a commercial waterpark and residential areas.
Fortunately, the BIATF, spearheaded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), were able to save the nine wetlands. They were able to identify, mark and declare these wetlands as protected areas. Furthermore, they were able to tap a handful of corporations who adopted the wetlands to be rehabilitated for three years under their respective corporate social responsibility programs. Below are the identified wetlands with their corresponding government and corporate caretakers.
And to commemorate World Wetlands Day, the BIATF together with the corresponding barangay officials and community volunteers, carried out a wetland cleanup drive around Boracay Island.
Based on the photographs shown to Boracay Sun News by Orolfo, the rehabilitation program seems to be working as the gathered garbage in the wastelands are manageable. “We gathered more garbage in previous beach cleanups,” he points out.
So I guess the island’s kidney is slowly regaining back its health. To cap this story, Orolfo warmly invites our readers, especially the Boracay community, to continue being vigilant in taking care of the island, and to continue adopting new practices that will make the island sustainable.
“We cannot say sorry to the environment. Rather, we should treat the environment as our home, our habitat that we should protect and conserve,” he adds.