Wetlands Are Wasting Away

Wetlands are lands where saturation with water is the dominant factor determining the nature of soil development and the type of plant and animal communities living in the soil and on its surface. Wetlands vary widely regionally and locally in soil, topography, climate, hydrology, water chemistry, vegetation and other factors including human activities. Wetlands are found from tundra to the tropics and on every continent except Antarctica.

Wetlands are habitats that fall on the environmental spectrum between land and water. Since wetlands lie at the interface of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, they possess a unique mixture of species, conditions, and interactions. As a result, wetlands are among our planet’s most diverse and varied habitats. The alarming fact on which we all should ponder upon is that many wetlands are in critical condition due to several environmental threats. Major threats to wetland include pollution, climate change, introduction of nonnative species, overexploitation wetlands resources, drought, hurricanes and storms etc. Wetlands play an important role in purifying water by ‘locking up’ pollutants in their sediments, soils and vegetation that is the use of Eichhornia crassipes for absorbing oil, grease and heavy metals. The primary pollutants causing wetland degradation are sediments, fertilizers, human sewerage, animal waste, road salts and pesticides.

Global warming is also taking its toll causing polar ice to melt and sea levels to rise. A study by The Pew Center on Global Climate Change found that as temperature rises, water temperature also increases because warmer waters are more productive, wetlands may up-over run by algae, which degrades water quality and causes health problem to humans and animal. The algae bloom known as red tide releases toxin which are quiet harmful for both aquatic life and humans.

Pakistan is blessed with a number of wetlands like Ratti Gali Lake, Baghsar Lake, River Neelum, Astola (Haft Talar) Island, Zhob River, Deosai Plateau, Kachura Lake, Rama Lake, Satpara Lake, Maho Dhand, Head Islam, Ucchali Lake, and Khinjar (Kalri) Lake. Among these sites some of them are declared as Ramsar Sites i.e. they are included in the list of wetlands of international importance. The Ramsar Conservation on wetland protection has been signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971. As of 30th January 2009, there are 19 Ramsar sites in Pakistan; some of the major sites protected under this treaty include Haleji Lake, Keenjhar (Kalri) lake, and Astola (Haft talar) Island and Uchali lake Complex. Wetlands are an important part of our national heritage. The challenge lies in promoting its tourist potential while protecting it from degradation. Local government must take positive steps like educating people to protect wetlands and to ensure that the functions and related values they provide will be preserved for present and future generations.

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