Gotta appreciate the work of the swamps – World Wetlands Day

There was a time in Ghana when rearing rabbits was the coolest thing to be involved in as a young boy. I remember we used to get fodder from a part of the neighborhood called ‘rice farm’ in Tema, Community 12. This place was a large swampy tract of land which was home to several types of grass, shrubs, birds, fish and animals. As kids, we just saw this place as a wonderland where there was an abundance of free rabbit food, fish to catch and tortoises to capture. Little did we know that the area served a vital ecological purpose.

View of Sakumono lagoon showing Community 3 SSNIT housing estate. Photo Credit: www.panoramio.com

I have grown up to know this this ‘rice farm’ was an extension of the Sakumo RAMSAR site that stretches from the Sakumono lagoon to parts of Tema West. It breaks my heart to tell you that as of today, that ‘wonderland’ we knew from the 90’s is no more as a result of human activity and rapid urbanization. Our ‘rice farm’ has been replaced with mansions.
As we commemorate World Wetlands Day in the month of February, it is just important that we understand the very vital role wetlands play in our ecosystem. One way of doing this is to raise awareness on the functions of wetlands which is highlighted later in this blog post.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (RAMSAR Convention, 1971) came into force in 1971.Ghana ratified this convention on 22 June 1988. Per the convention’s criteria, in Ghana there are six sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance with a surface area of 178,410 hectares. These are Muni-Pomadze, Densu Delta, Sakumo, Songor, Keta lagoon and Owabi wildlife sanctuary. A major obligation under the Convention is the implementation of the principle of ‘wise use’ of the wetland resources, where "wise use" is understood to mean “their sustained utilization for the benefit of humankind in a way compatible with the maintenance of the natural properties of the ecosystem” .

This is why we gotta appreciate the work of the swamps

Wetlands have a myriad of roles they play for humanity and our environment. Increased research has come to establish their importance and many scholars have documented such findings. The ecosystem services derived from wetlands include;

– Water Purification -Wetlands remove sediments, nutrients, toxic substances and other pollutants in surface run-off water thereby improving the quality of water.

– Habitat -Wetlands provide habitat for high concentrations of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrate species. I remember I captured a small tortoise from one of our escapades at rice farm.

– Maintenance of the water table – Wetlands facilitate the movement of large volumes of water into the underground aquifer resulting in the recharge of the water table. This helps to constantly replenish underground water stocks.

– Flood and Erosion Prevention -Wetlands prevent surface run-off from moving swiftly downstream and overflowing. Thus they prevent erosion and flood conditions.

– Storm Protection – Wetlands such as mangroves and other forested coastal areas act as wind-breaks and help to dissipate the forces and impact of coastal storm surges.

– Climate Change Mitigation -Wetlands play at least two crucial yet contrasting roles in mitigating the effects of climate change: one in the management of greenhouse gases especially carbon dioxide and the other in physically buffering climate change impacts.

– Again wetlands provide micro-climate stabilization -Wetland vegetation may also evaporate or transpire much of the water into the atmosphere and help to maintain stable climatic conditions.

You can see for yourselves why it is imperative on our part to protect and preserve the few RAMSAR sites we have left as a country. In this regard, the Wild Life Division of the Forestry Commission of Ghana which has the management of the nation’s wetlands under its purview s doing quite a good job at that. Let’s continue to herald the message of our

RAMSAR sites and create awareness as much as we can.

We want to hear your thoughts on this issue, leave your comments and let’s start a discussion.

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