All roads in Maun will this coming Saturday, February 2, 2008 lead to The Big Tree site along the Thamalakane River where World Wetlands Day will be commemorated under the theme: “Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People.”
Tiro Kganela, Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT), said World Wetlands Day marks the global recognition of efforts in sensitizing and raising public awareness on issues affecting wetlands and their utilization.
“Wetlands are known to provide resources in the form of food, clean water, medicinal products, timber, thatching grass and river sand, therefore the theme symbolizes the significance attached to good wetlands resources management practices and the health benefits that can accrue to the people,” explained Kganela.
Though Wetlands vary in forms all over the world, Kganela said that they are the world’s most productive environments, being home to countless species of plants and animals.
“There are 1411 sites designated as wetlands of international importance worldwide. The Okavango Delta being one of them and is currently ranked as second largest in the listed Ramsar sites,” he said.
There are a number of activities arranged to mark the commemoration of this day. These comprise of showcasing the completion of the planning phase of the Okavango Delta Management Plan (ODMP), Environment and Development Dialogue and the launch of the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission Secretariat. Other activities will include a march and clean up along the river and a wetlands fair to exhibit materials and artifacts on wetlands management.
Two days prior to this commemoration, there will be an International Wetlands Conference which will be held at the Maun Lodge. The objective of this conference will be to focus on sharing lessons and experiences on effective implementation of wetlands management activities.
“To benefit from attendance of international experts at the conference, the exchange will continue in the evening during which a panel discussion on wetlands under the topic Whose Delta is it? will be sponsored and held by the GEF-funded project, BIOKAVANGO,” said Kganela.
The Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila will officiate at the occasion.
The Director General of the Ramsar Convention, Dr Anada Tiega, will also grace the occasion, and Members of Parliament for the area and other Ministers are also expected to be present. Also expected at the event are the Permanent Okavango Commission delegates from Angola and Namibia, representatives from the World Conservation Union, SIDA and the Ambassador of the USA.
On the same day of this event, Botswana will also celebrate the launch of the newly established OKACOM Secretariat which will also be launched by minister Mokaila.