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Wetlands For Our Future: Sustainable Livelihoods

World Wetlands Day is celebrated internationally each year on February 2. It marks the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) in Ramsar, Iran, on February 2, 1971.

World Wetlands Day was first celebrated in 1997. Since then government agencies, non-government organizations and community groups have celebrated World Wetlands Day by undertaking actions to raise public awareness of wetland values and benefits and promote the conservation and wise use of wetlands.

These activities include seminars, nature walks, festivals, announcement of new Ramsar sites, newspaper articles, radio interviews and wetland rehabilitation.

The international theme for World Wetlands Day 2016 is Wetlands for our future: sustainable livelihoods.

Wetlands play an important role in the processes that keep our landscapes healthy and productive. They support industries such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry and tourism by supplying water for crops, stock and people, maintaining water quality, providing habitat for commercial species and having cultural and recreational values.

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Wetlands host a huge variety of life, protect our coastlines, provide natural defences against river flooding or storm surges and store carbon dioxide to regulate climate change.

Unfortunately, wetlands are often viewed as wasteland, and more than 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900. World Wetlands Day is an annual opportunity to raise public awareness and promote the value of wetlands.

The Ramsar Convention Secretariat has developed a number of downloadable World Wetlands Day materials for 2016, including a teaching guide, handouts, posters and fact sheets. Groups and individuals are encouraged to adapt these materials for their own World Wetlands Day events and activities.

In order to spread environmental awareness among public, the Secretariat is again running a photographic competition for 15-24 year olds. The photograph must be taken in a wetland and must capture how people make a living from wetlands. The winner will receive a free flight to a wetland location anywhere in the world, courtesy of Star Alliance Biosphere Connections.

To enter, take a picture of your favourite wetland with your phone or digital camera between 2 February and 2 March 2016, and upload it to the Ramsar Convention Secretariat’s World Wetlands Day 2016 website.