Wetlands conservation crucial for tourism

Water and Environmental Affairs Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi on Thursday highlighted the importance of wetlands conservation, saying they were important for tourism and community livelihoods.

She marked World Wetlands Day at an event held at the Makuleke Wetlands in Limpopo. The Makuleke Wetlands site was declared a Ramsar site – a wetland of international importance – in 2007 and is the first Ramsar site owned and co-managed by the community not only in South Africa but worldwide.

Mabudafhasi said the proposal for its designation received much publicity during the celebration of World Wetlands Day in 2002.

“In that event, I highlighted the fact that should this site be designated as wetlands of international importance, it would be the first community-owned Ramsar site in the country, and as such, represented a new approach to wetland management,” she said.

By designating these unique wetlands, South Africa was commended for its good work during the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention in Korea where the certificate for Makuleke Wetlands was granted.

More than 800 wetlands are to be rehabilitated across the country, with about 40 people already benefiting from the Makuleke community where a rehabilitation project worth R1.8 million was undertaken.

Mabudafhasi added that South Africa’s extraordinary ecological wealth gave the country a unique opportunity to capitalise on emerging green markets and help the country adapt to climate change.

“The rehabilitation and proper management of our ecosystems will not only increase our competitive advantage, but help us adapt our economy to become more sustainable and resilient in changing global conditions.”

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