Wetlands – a sustainable future for cities

Every year, on 2 February, we celebrate World Wetlands Day to bring peoples’ attention to the important role of wetlands for the people and the Planet. This year’s theme is “Wetlands – A Sustainable Future for Cities”. The aim is to highlight the important role of wetlands in the urbanization process and their key importance to a better life in large cities.

Photo Spas Uzunov/Breeding Common terns in Poda protected area – one of the Ramsar Sites in Bulgaria

Four billion people – almost half of the Earth’s population – now live in cities. This figure is expected to increase by 2050 because many more people move to larger cities looking for work and better opportunities for development. Urbanization is a key factor in modern life and the greatest tendency of our time. Urbanization definitely changes the place where people will live in the future and the way they live. Forecasts suggest that megalopolises – large cities with more than 10 million inhabitants – will increase from 31 to 41 by 2030.

Rapidly growing urban populations is a huge challenge for local authorities to ensure that cities can provide basic services such as accommodation, transport and water, safety and sustainability, and also offer a cleaner and healthier living environment.

During storms, wetlands located in, or near, cities take up larger amounts of rainfall, thus reducing floods and preventing disasters and subsequent recovery costs. Coastal vegetation surrounding wetlands acts as a filter for domestic and industrial waste and contributes to improving water quality.

Apart from being a source of water, suburban wetlands are also green areas that can be used for recreation, tourism and sports, thus enhancing the health of the urban population.

The rapid pace of urban development is a major threat to the protection of wetlands and their wise use. As cities are growing rapidly and demand for free space is increasing, wetlands tend to be viewed as wasteful and unnecessary places, waste is disposed in them or they are being converted to other urban use.

When wetlands are preserved and used sustainably, they provide cities with many benefits – economic, social and cultural. Cities in or near wetlands can view them as an asset and value and can therefore be included in their development and management plans.

In the World today there are many examples of cities that have committed to sustainable management of their wetlands. That is why cities are encouraged to adopt policies and actions to help protect wetlands. In October 2018, the first cities to be accredited for wetlands under the Convention will be announced in Dubai at the 13th meeting of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

The hopes are these cities – pioneers to act as a catalyst and to inspire action and other cities on the path of sustainable management of wetlands in them.

In connection with the International Wetlands Day, on February 2, 2018 (Friday), the BSPB Nature Conservation Center “Poda” near Bourgas organizes an excursion for students in the protected area, led by an experienced ornithologist who will introduce them to the rare and endangered birds, will show them how to identify birds in the wild and will tell them the amazing story of Poda.