The City of Cape Town has become South Africa’s first city to be accredited as a Ramsar Wetland City.
The announcement was made at the 14th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention, being held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 5 to 13 November 2022.
The city is home to over 11 000 hectares of wetlands, which provide essential services such as disaster risk reduction and contributes to climate change adaptation and mitigation.
“Over the past 20 years, the city has implemented several initiatives, both inside and outside of protected areas, with the aim of rehabilitating wetlands and conserving these natural assets,” the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment said on Friday.
“Because of the threats posed by urbanisation and the increased demand for land on wetlands, the Convention in 2015 introduced Wetland City Accreditation for cities that have recognised the importance of protecting urban or peri-urban wetlands,” the department said.
The Wetland City Accreditation program provides international recognition for cities that uphold a solid and favourable relationship with wetlands by creating public awareness of wetland benefits, incorporating wetland protection into municipal planning and decision-making, and promoting wetland benefits for local people.
The department said urbanisation is a globally acknowledged problem that has an impact on the health and efficiency of wetland ecosystems.
“The voluntary wetland accreditation system adopted by the Ramsar with the aim of promoting sustainable urbanization and the conservation of urban and peri-urban wetlands within urban and peri-urban areas.
“Cities that have taken exceptional measures to protect their urban wetlands or a wetland of international importance (known as a Ramsar Site) within their city may apply to be accredited as a Ramsar Wetland City,” the department said.
The city is recognised as a global hotspot of biodiversity and thus has a corresponding number of rare and threatened wetlands supporting many endemic fauna and flora species.
These wetlands include the Rietvlei and Milnerton Lagoon (part of the Table Bay Nature Reserve), the Zandvlei Estuary, Edith Stephens Wetlands, False Bay Nature Reserve (a wetland of international importance), the Noordhoek wetlands and many others.
“Wetlands in and around urban settlements have historically been considered impediments to development. Drainage, filling in and pollution have long been a feature of planned and unplanned urbanisation.
“Through the Ramsar Accreditation system those living in urban areas are now being encouraged to regard their wetlands as spaces which contribute to the liveability of cities through improving water quality, regulating the climate and reducing the effects of urban heat islands, providing space for recreation and leisure, and mitigating the effects of extreme events such as floods and resulting infrastructure damage,” the department said. – SAnews.gov.za