World Wetlands Day is celebrated every February 2, to raise awareness about the importance of these ecosystems to the planet.
The day marks the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention) in 1971. This year’s theme is “Wetlands for our Future: Sustainable Livelihoods,” selected to demonstrate the vital role of wetlands in the current and future wellbeing of humanity, and to promote their rational use.
We all depend on wetlands for fresh water to meet our daily needs, but more than a billion people worldwide depend on them directly in activities such as fishing, rice farming, construction, the production of fabrics, medicine, transportation, tourism, etc. For these people, healthy wetlands are essential to their livelihoods and central to their welfare.
However, coastal, marine and inland wetlands are declining rapidly. In little more than 40 years, approximately 40% of wetlands have been destroyed, and this continues at a rapid pace of 1.5% annually.
Cuba has been a contracting party of the Ramsar Convention since 2001. The island is home to six Ramsar Sites and 30% of the protected areas in Cuba are wetlands. Cuba’s Ramsar Sites are: the Ciénaga de Zapata in Matanzas; the Humedal Delta del Cauto in Granma; the Gran Humedal del Norte of Ciego de Ávila; the Humedal Río Máximo-Camagüey in the province of Camagüey, and the Ciénaga de Lanier y Sur on the Isle of Youth.
Currently, we are working on two new proposed Ramsar sites in Cuba: the Humedal Guanahacabibes and the Humedal Sur de los Palacios, both located in the province of Pinar del Río. In addition, efforts have been ongoing on an inventory of Cuban wetlands, the legal approval of the Ramsar sites, and their proper management and conservation.
Every year, February 2 is celebrated in our wetland areas with various activities such as workshops, scientific exchanges, community festivals, art, poetry, and photography competitions, cultural activities, educational programs for schools located near wetlands and many other activities that increase knowledge and awareness regarding the care of these important ecosystems.
(Susana Aguilar Mújica, Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment expert)