5th Ramsar site declared
The lower Okavango river was recently declared a Ramsar site and becomes the fifth such site in the country. The four other Ramsar sites are Sandwich Bay, the Etosha Pan, the Walvis Bay Wetlands and the Orange River Estuary. The Convention on Wetlands for Namibia came into force on 23 December 1995. Speaking on the matter, Minister of Environment and Tourism, Hon Uahekua Herunga said, “The designation of the Okavango-Bwabwata as a Ramsar Site of International Importance means only three things; firstly, it means that the site is globally important and not only for Namibia. It requires that the use of the wetland and other associated resources is done wisely to sustain the system and those that depend on it. Secondly, it means that Namibia as a party to the Ramsar Convention will promote the conservation of the site, and thirdly, that Namibia will work with other party members and countries to promote and ensure conservation of the site and other wetlands in the country.
The listing of the site does not in any way prevent people and local communities from using and benefiting from the wetland and associated resources. The listing of the wetland promotes use of the wetland” Abraham Nehemia, Under Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry said, “Support to biodiversity conservation and ecotourism development in the Bwabwata National Park is part of a larger programme. Cooperation between our two governments (Namibia and Botswana) includes national and trans-boundary environmental management. Namibia particularly welcomes the economic boost in terms of tourism which will go hand in hand with the new status of this part of the river system being decleared today as a wetland of international ecological importance.” 168 countries are party to the convention and 2177 sites around the world have been declared wetlands of international importance since the convention came into force. The treaty was adopted in Ramsar, Iran in 1971.