South African programmes to protect the wetlands

South Africa has every reason to get excited about the theme of World Wetlands Day 2012. We are a worldwide tourism destination and a water-scarce country according to the statistics of the Ramsar Convention. These factors make us a prime candidate country for wetlands conservation and sustainable tourism.

wetlands in South Africa

1. Mondi Wetlands Programme:

A non-governmental wetland conservation programme established in 1991 – a partnership between two of SA’s largest conservation NGO’s (WESSA and WWF) together with the funding from two corporates (Mazda Wildlife Fund and Mondi Ltd).

The programme was started with the aim to raise awareness of the strategic importance of wetlands to facilitate proper management and restoration of wetlands and focuses mainly on wetlands outside nature reserves.

All parties involved are educated to bring about social change in their approach to wetlands, with emphasis also being placed on root causes of problems with solutions based on increased awareness. Mondi Wetlands Programme has changed the way government, communities and industries manage wetlands and has produced much publicity with regards to wetland conservation. The Programme will need another 5 years to ensure that government, community, and industry partners have fully integrated the wetland management into their operations.

2. Working for Wetlands programme

This was the first nation-wide government effort to restore wetlands, with employment relief programmes in mind. Working for Wetlands was established July 2000 with the main goal of restoring degraded wetlands to enhance water supplies and conserve biodiversity.

The programme functions through formation of partnerships with private sector companies in the mining and forestry industry. The success of the programme led the national government to substantially increase investment in 2004.

Priority is given to wetlands with greatest conservation and water supply implications

Activities undertaken include:

  • Building concrete, gabion structures to limit erosion and restore wetland hydrology
  • Plugging up artificial drainage channels which were originally dug to dry out the wetlands
  • Eradicating thirsty invasive alien plants and planting indigenous species
  • Creating employment & empowering disadvantaged communities
  • Enhancing livestock & food production through more reliable water supply, irrigation and grazing
  • Restoring traditional cultural activities like basket production from wetland plant fibres


There will be various events in Cape Town on Thursday, 2 Feb 2012. One might find a visit to the Two Oceans Aquarium worth a visit. Two of the exhibits are based on the theme of the day: The ‘Sappi River Meander’ will explain the flora and fauna residing in the South African Wetlands and ‘The Story of a River’ will outline coastal river-mouth ecology right up to mountain catchment areas – and will highlight many of the threats facing wetlands

Source: Green Times (Katie Bell)

See Lifeline of a Healthy Ecosystem – World Wetlands Day 2012.

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