The belated celebration of World Wetlands Day (WWD), under the theme “Wetlands and Tourism” was used as an environmental education excursion for tertiary students and learners in Namibia.
BIRD watching, kayaking and sighting aquatic invertebrates were some of the activities that marked Namibia’s national celebration of the WWD, which is usually celebrated on 2 February, but was held on 24 February at the coastal town of Swakopmund.
A group of 35, comprising third year Nature Conservation students from the Polytechnic of Namibia and their lecturers as well as learners from Walvis Bay, Ondangwa, Omaruru and Usakos, marked the day at the coast.
The students and learners were treated to first-hand experience of wetland-tourism activities, including tidal pool exploration, salt-work visits, wetland bird watching, touring dunes and cruising on a Mola Mola boat and Sunsail’s Catamarans.
“We saw black-backed jackals, Cape Fur Seals, bottlenose-dolphins and many sea-birds such as Avocets, Pelicans, Sandpipers and the endemic Damara Terns, which only breeds successfully on our coast,” Polytechnic students were quoted in a report compiled by their colleagues, Twakondja Povanhu, Johann Potgieter and their lecturer, Shirley Bethune.
The fossils at Rooikop, dated 2.5 – 3 millions years, on the way to Gobabeb Training and Research Centre also made an impression on the students. At Gobabeb, the students and learners surf the dunes, camped along the Kuiseb River and had a night of scorpion hunt.
The over-utilization of resources due to increased human population, is one of the main threats facing world efforts towards the sustainable use of wetlands. Other threats are the introduction of alien species into wetlands, pollution, physical alteration to natural water courses and soil erosion.
So far, Namibia has designated four wetlands for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. These are the Etosha Pan, Walvis Bay Lagoon, Sandwich Harbor and the Orange River (shared with South Africa).
Wetlands not only provide water, but also nutrients for vegetation, frogs, birds and fish. They also prevent erosion, improve water quality, stabilize the climate and recharge aquifers.
This year’s WWD is linked to the theme, “Wetlands, Tourism and Recreation”, of the 10th conference of parties to the Ramsar Convention, which will be held in Bucharest, Romania in July this year. Namibia became party to the Ramsar Convention in 1995. The Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) is an inter-governmental treaty that embodies the commitments of its member countries to maintain the ecological character of their wetlands of international importance and to plan for the sustainable use of all of the wetlands in their territories.