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What are wetlands for?

() - March 8, 2012 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Have you ever wondered why there are wetlands?

Wetlands, as defined by the Ramsar Convention, are "areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters."

These serve as feeding grounds for migratory birds, like shorebirds.

Human civilization has begun near bodies of water, thus essential in human development and survival. Recall your lessons about the Egyptians dependent on the Nile River. How about the Chinese who thrived in the Yellow River (or Yang-tze River)? Where there is water, there is life.

But the most evident function of a wetland is for flood control, therefore should be free from any human settlement; free from housing projects.

Wetlands often act as water overflow and storage areas in times of heavy rainfall. So you can just imagine the extent of damage to lives and properties if we continue to build houses on natural floodways and floodplains?

An example of this is the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Agusan del Sur. It has an area of 14,836 hectares or about the size of 7,418 football fields.

According to the Society of the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands, Inc., this area includes a "vast complex of freshwater marshes and water-courses with numerous shallow lakes and ponds in the upper basin of the Agusan River and its tributaries, which rise in the hills of eastern Mindanao."

A tributary is a stream that flows to a larger stream or other body of water.

The site acts as storage for rainwater to reduce the immediate downstream flow of floodwater into population centers. So now you see why we have to be thankful to these awesomely designed natural drainage systems. Nature has always been protective of us.

Another Philippine wetland is the Naujan Lake National Park in Oriental Mindoro with an area of 14,568 hectares or about the size of 7,284 football fields. SCPWI said that this is the fifth largest lake in the Philippines with an area of 14 kilometers by seven kilometers. To give you an idea, Talisay City is 12 kilometers from Cebu City. Seven kilometers is the distance from Colon Street to Pardo. Imagine the former as the length and the latter the width. That is how big and wide this lake is!

Naujan is volcanic in origin and receives water from local run-off. It acts as a natural basin so water won't flood low-lying areas.

There are large areas in Naujan Lake National Park of shallow water with an abundant growth of aquatic vegetation, SCPWI added. Most of the people in the area depend upon the lake for their livelihood, particularly through fishing.

These are just some of the reasons why there is a World Wetlands Day celebration every February. We need to know why wetlands are out there. We need to connect to their importance in the survival of the human race. We need to put an end to the harmful human activities that continue to hurt our precious wetlands.

AGUSAN MARSH WILDLIFE SANCTUARY AGUSAN RIVER ANOTHER PHILIPPINE CEBU CITY COLON STREET NAUJAN LAKE NATIONAL PARK NILE RIVER ORIENTAL MINDORO RAMSAR CONVENTION SOCIETY OF THE CONSERVATION OF PHILIPPINE WETLANDS WATER
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