The Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission on Wednesday appealed to the public to support conserve the country’s wetlands.

It said: “Well preserved wetlands provide great opportunity for leisure and tourism that can contribute to Ghana’s natural wealth, poverty reduction, economic growth and development.”

The appeal was contained in a statement issued in Accra by Nana Kofi Adu-Nisah, Executive Director, Wildlife Division to commemorate World Wetland Day on Thursday, February 2.

The second day of February each year is celebrated globally as “World Wetland Day”.

The day is marked by countries that are party to the International Treaty on wetlands, commonly called the Ramsar Convention to raise public awareness on wetland values and benefits, and to promote their conservation.

This year’s celebration marks the 41st anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar.

The global theme for 2012 World Wetlands Day is: “Wetlands and Tourism,” and seeks to highlight on the importance of how a well preserved wetlands, with their natural beauty and biodiversity, provide ideal locations for recreation and tourism.

The statement said: “As a country, we are encouraged by our ratification of the Ramsar Convention, and most importantly by this year’s theme, to use the occasion to create public awareness on the importance of wetlands, and to appraise the current state of our wetlands regarding their value as locations for leisure and tourism.”

Wetlands are valuable ecosystems that occupy about six per cent of the world’s surface. They provide numerous goods and services, not only to the local people living around them but also to communities living outside wetland areas. They indirectly provide important services and are prime locations for tourism.

In other parts of the world, especially, in developing countries tourism has expanded relatively recently. In these countries, tourism is increasingly recognised by governments as an opportunity for economic growth, and also as an instrument for poverty reduction.

Wetlands provide a whole range of recreational and tourism opportunities that can generate income locally and nationally, from boating and other water sports to hunting, watching wildlife and even art and literature.

In Botswana’s Okavango Delta, direct non-consumptive use of the Moremi Game Reserve (also a Ramsar Site), by tourists was estimated as being worth up to $16 million in 2003.

“Ghana has beautiful coastal and inland wetlands with rich biodiversity that make ideal locations for tourism. The income from these wetlands, if well preserved, can be significant and support livelihoods locally and nationally.

“There are many wetlands in Ghana with great recreational and tourism value for which monetary figure cannot easily be given because many visitors may use these areas without direct payment.

“Employing economic valuation techniques to investigate how the public use our coastal wetlands including the Volta River Estuary at Ada, Amanzure wetlands, Ankobra beach, Cape Three Points and Princess Town, and Ankobra River Estuary can be revealing. Of course, wetlands also provide other services, such as water, food, water purification, erosion control, carbon sequestration, and many more making their valuation in economic term highly substantial.

“What we see of Ghana’s wetlands is generally nothing to write home about. They are generally degraded through toxic industrial wastes flowing into waterways and/or through untreated solid and human wastes as it is the case with the Chemu Lagoon in Tema; overexploited through unsustainable harvesting of fisheries resources; encroached even if they are under statutory reservations, such as Ramsar Sites or as buffer zones for water impoundments as we are witnessing around the Weija Dam in Accra, Owabi Dam in Kumasi and many other places in the country.

“Most of our coastal areas, for example, are dirty, lakes and rivers polluted, mangroves degraded and fisheries and biodiversity over-exploited.”

The statement said many factors make most of the country’s wetland areas, including the beaches, less attractive for recreation and tourism even if they are developed into the best tourism infrastructure.

“As a country, we have failed to understand, appreciate and respond correctly to the relationship between wetlands, and recreation and tourism,” it said. GNA

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