PRETORIA, Government has called on NGOs, civil society, communities and other stakeholders to raise awareness about wetlands to protect and conserve them.
Speaking on Friday at the Esselen Park Wetlands Pan in Tembisa, Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture Rejoice Mabudafhasi said wetlands have enormous economic, social, cultural and environmental benefits for the country.
She led a public awareness drive to commemorate World Wetlands Day on behalf of the Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Barbara Thomson.
"It is, however, sad to note that, to date, we have lost an estimated 50% of wetlands in the country due to unsustainable use and poor land management.
"We also need to highlight that if sustainably managed, wetlands play a significant role in protecting and improving water quality, providing habitat for fish and wildlife, flood reduction and maintaining surface water flow during dry periods, among others. These valuable functions are a result of the unique natural characteristics which wetlands provide," Mabudafhasi said.
She said the Esselen Park Wetland was once a degraded wetland.
"As part of government's commitments and in its efforts to address poverty, fight unemployment and enhance economic opportunities, especially in poor townships and rural communities, the Gauteng Provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, in collaboration with the National Department of Environmental Affairs, partnered to restore and rehabilitate the Esselen Park Wetlands," Mabudafhasi said.
She said the rehabilitation was done through the Expanded Public Works Programme, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Rand Water Foundation, and Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality.
"During the period when this wetland was rehabilitated, over 50 job opportunities were created for a period of nine months and amongst the beneficiaries were women and youth.
"Government spent over R2 million in two financial years as part of the rehabilitation of this important wetland," Mabhudafhasi said.
The Department of Environmental Affairs said it will continue to make significant investments in the conservation, management and restoration of wetlands through implementation of the Ramsar Convention and the Working for Wetlands Programme, to ensure healthy wetlands that will improve water quality and water supplies.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK