In the city of Iran Ramsar an International Conference on the Conservation of Waterlands and Waterfowl held in February 1971 where International Agencies of United Nation and other Governmental and Non-governmental agencies passed a resolution to take care of the water reservoirs throughout the world. This day is celebrated every year on the 2nd February.
The Ramsar Convention is the only global environmental treaty that deals with the actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits in general and the Ramsar Convention in particular.
At present, there are 163 participating contries all over the world. Each party country to the Ramsar Convention has designated a number of internationally important wetlands within its territory for protection wetlands resources. Among other nations, Pakistan has also endorsed the Ramsar Convention and became an astringent faction to the Convention in 1976. In Pakistan, there are 19 Ramsar sites — nine in Sindh, five in Balochistan, three in Punjab, and two in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Pakistan possesses a great variety of wetlands distributed almost through out the country from the coastal mangroves and mudflats on the Indus Delta to the glacial lakes of the high Himalayas. Some of the important wetlands in Pakistan are, Drigh Lake, Jiwani Coastal Wetland, Jubho Lagoon, Miani Hor, Nurri Lagoon, Runn of Kutch, Tanda Dam, Taunsa Barrage, Thanedar Wala, Uchhali Complex, the Sindh and Makran coast, Indus Delta and River System.
These wetlands are the lifeline of wetlands dependent local communities who not only benefit from the substantial economic growth but are also a source of staple food, livestock grazing and fodder, fuel-wood, transport, energy generation and irrigation. Around the world about one billion people eat fish as wetlands product, in addition to crab, shrimp and salmon. Wetlands are also a source of rice, the staple food of over three billion people throughout the world.
In addition, these ecosystems provide essential habitats for a number of important mammal species, like the smooth coated otter, Indus dolphin, fishing cat, hog deer, and wild boar besides waterfowl. They connect nations through water flow and the migratory birds and fauna that migrate from one country to the other.
Conservation of wetlands is essential because they are very fertile and productive areas. Wetlands are found all over the world, the only continent that does not have them is Antarctica. Wetlands play a key role in keeping our water clean because they store and filter water that passes through them. Wetland also play an important role in flood control by storing excess water which seeps gradually back into the ground and becomes available to people for their use in the form of purified springs and streams. This supplies people with clean water. Therefore, wetlands are important part of watersheds.
There are many types of plants, bacteria and animals associated with wetlands that help remove many harmful impurities. Wetlands and their surrounding upstream and downstream serve as habitat for many species of plants, mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish and many invertebrates, where they obtain shelter, food and water. The fauna associated with wetlands use them as breeding and nesting grounds and resting areas. Wetland vegetation not only traps sediments but also controls soil erosion by stabilising the soil against erosive waves and currents.
Besides their historical importance and cultural significance, wetlands help to promotion the wellbeing of the local people by setting up small-scale business activities. We all know about the folklore associated with Lake Saiful Malook. Though situated in remote areas, many people still make an effort to go to these places to enjoy the natural beauty of wetlands.
However, increased human population around wetlands contributes to growing biotic pressure which has posed threats to the existence of wetlands on account of unsustainable practices and lack of awareness at large.
Conversion, diversion, agriculture expansion and changed land use practices, increased sedimentation, drainage, pollution, hunting, and over-exploitation of wetland resources are some of the contributing drivers that bring about significant changes in the ecology of the wetlands. Due to these factors both wildlife and people suffer. It presents a sad reality that the condition of the existing wetlands is gradually deteriorating which needs to be conserved as they are our natural assets.