NAIROBI, Feb 2 (Swara) – The World Wetlands Day was marked across the globe today with events and statements to raise awareness on the importance of wetlands to ecosystems and underline the need to protect them from anthropogenic activities that cause degradation.

The theme of World Wetlands Day 2022 is Wetlands Action for People and Nature, which is an appeal to invest financial, human and political capital to save the world’s wetlands from disappearing and to restore those that have been degraded.

In Kenya, an event to mark the day was held at a remarkable ‘quaking bog’ known as Ondiri Swamp, a critical source of water for the Kenyan capital, which is situated in the Kikuyu area, about 20km northwest of Nairobi.

The East African Wild Life Society led advocacy for the conservation of Ondiri Swamp in 2018 by profiling threats to the swamp, including pollution from urban effluent and agrochemicals; encroachment for agricultural expansion and settlement and unregulated abstraction of water. As a result, the National Environmental Complaints Committee (NECC) convened a multi-stakeholder meeting in September 2018 to investigate all the concerns raised about the wetland.

At the meeting, it was decided that a task force chaired by the Kiambu County government Executive Member in charge of the environment, water and natural resources be formed. The National Environment Authority (NEMA) and Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA) are working closely with the county government to enforce the necessary laws, such as issuing metered water pumps and inspecting the greenhouses around the wetland for legality and compliance. The wetland has also been partially fenced off and restoration efforts initiated. These efforts, among many others, have seen the Grey Crowned Crane return to the swamp, which is a clear indication of improving the health of the ecosystem.

Wetlands, such as lakes, rivers and marshes, provide almost all of the freshwater humans consume. Economies depend on them and they are crucial in maintaining water quality. By absorbing and storing water they also reduce flooding during heavy rainfall, and provide water for dry seasons, preventing the onset of droughts.

World Wetlands Day is marked every year on 2nd  February. The day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2nd February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Wetlands have often been seen as impediments to the expansion of agriculture and continue to be drained and reclaimed to make way for farmland. In Kenya, many communities engage in farming activities in or around wetlands. The challenge is how to ensure agricultural practices and technologies are adapted to local needs to strengthen ecosystem and community resilience, especially in the face of a rapidly changing climate.

The EAWLS has been advocating for sustainable utilization and protection of wetlands through its own initiatives and working with multi-stakeholders through the Kenya Wetlands Forum (KWF). EAWLS through KWF assisted the Kenyan government to develop the first national wetlands map. Since then, EAWLS has advocated for the protection and sustainable use of wetlands and wetland resources across the country. In 2018, EAWLS successfully advocated for the gazettement of Lake Ol’Bolossat as a protected wetland. The alkaline lake is designated as an Important Bird Area in central Kenya.

As we mark this Day, EAWLS urges the Kenyan government to designate Ondiri Swamp and many other wetlands as protected wetlands. The county government of Kiambu should also enact legislation requiring inventories of wetlands in its jurisdiction for ease of prioritization, protection and management. We also call upon stakeholders to step up efforts to protect, conserve and manage wetlands in the East African region.