World Wetlands Day - Province's wetlands vital to secure fresh water
The Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning in the Western Cape has concluded valuations of three wetlands in the catchment area of the Theewaterskloof Dam and is currently working in the Kluitjieskraal wetlands, clearing invasive alien plants and restoring the ecosystem in collaboration with different partners.
The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell, says the work being done across the Western Cape is vital to rehabilitate and restore wetlands in the province.
“Wetlands are of incredible biological importance and provide water and protection from natural disasters, support rich biodiversity, and store more carbon than any other ecosystem.”
Bredell says the department’s research has shown the value of investing in the restoration of wetlands as they also provide essential services to communities and our economy.
Globally, wetlands are under extreme pressure with approximately 35% of the world’s wetlands having disappeared between 1970 and 2015.
“The loss rate has been accelerating annually since the year 2000, according to the United Nations Climate Change program. Currently it is estimated that up to 40% of the world’s species live and breed in wetlands, and more than 25% of all wetland plants and animals are currently at risk of extinction.”
The department is celebrating World Wetlands Day today. The Western Cape is home to numerous fresh and saltwater wetlands all of which are vital in sustaining life through water harvesting, food production and preventing further biodiversity loss.
Phil McLean, resident botanist and Task Manager for Riparian Zone Rehabilitation and Bioremediation at the department, says that the Papenkuils Wetland outside of Rawsonville, is just one example of how wetlands act as a good filtration system - by filtering sediment and removing toxic pollutants from the water.
“Wetlands also act as the water equivalent of solar panels. They allow water to filter into the earth and re-charge groundwater reserves - just like a solar panel re-charging a battery”, says McLean.
“Currently our team is undertaking a wetland valuation and hydrological study on Papenkuils Wetland, which will determine where the water into the wetland comes from and where it goes to.”
Gottlieb Arendse, Chief Director of Environmental Quality at the department, says a significant proportion of South Africa's wetlands have been lost to date.
“Those that remain face a multitude of threats, leaving many in a poor ecological state. Which is why our Department has prioritised (restoring) wetlands as they form critical ecological infrastructure in the province.”
Take part in the global celebration by following the hashtags #WorldWetlandsDay #RestoreWetlands