Why Samoa values wetlands

By Sina Filifilia Sevaaetasi ,

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Saina Youth Group taking part in Wetlands Day.

Saina Youth Group taking part in Wetlands Day. (Photo: Misiona Simo)

Samoa joined the rest of the world to commemorate World Wetlands Day yesterday.

The theme was “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction.”

Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, who is also the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, spoke about the importance of the day.

“For all of us who call Samoa our home, this is a time to celebrate a very special part of our natural environment – the “wetlands.”

“The Wetlands include our rivers, lakes, coral reed, mangroves, mudflats, marshes and sea grass beds.  

They provide for us tremendous economic and conservation benefits through fisheries production, flood control, shoreline stabilization, maintenance of coastal water quality and provision of recreational opportunities.  

“Wetlands also house extensive biodiversity, ranging from algae and lichens to plants, insects, crustaceans, birds, fish and coral.

Fiame also expressed concerns about the rapid rate in which wetlands are being degraded.

“Wetlands are often wrongfully thought of as wastelands and are subject to land reclamation projects, used as waste dumping grounds resulting in toxic and harmful substances entering the waterways and oceans.  

“Losing our wetlands means losing the valuable services they provide and this almost always impacts negativity on humans.  Tourism, food security, fresh water supply and coastal protection are the most obvious losers when wetlands die.” 

The Minister also addressed the crucial importance of preserving wetlands.

Minister of M.N.R.E and Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mataafa.
Minister of M.N.R.E and Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mataafa.

 “Climate change adds another dimension to the continuing destruction of our wetlands but it brings a greater imperative for their preservation.  

“Across the Pacific, there is growing evidence that climate change is resulting in more frequent cyclones and storm surges, coastal erosion, loss of fish breeding grounds and reduced water quality on many small islands.” 

The ramifications of life without wetlands are deadly. 

Which is why the government has sprung into action to ensure this doesn’t happen.

“The government has now started to implement its plan for the improvement and upgrading of Vaisigano Rivers and as well as the Apia Waterfront.  

“However, one of the most important aspects of the long plan is to converse and sustainably manage the Vaisigano Upland Forests and protect Water Catchment Areas to minimize impacts on Vaisiagno lowland areas and Apia marine biodiversity during rainy season.  Also, the $2 million tree planting campaign is still on going until 2020.”

The M.N.R.E understands the responsibility doesn’t only fall on their shoulders.

“In commemoration of the World Wetlands Day this year in Samoa, the Ministry recognizes that great roles by the youth generation is important as they will be the future of our country.” 

Thus, the inclusion of church youth groups who were present at the commemoration yesterday.

After formalities, the youth groups took to Vaisiagano Beach where they had activities pertaining to the Wetlands Day as well as a sports day.  

The M.N.R.E has also opened up a photo contest for youth.  The top three best photos will be submitted to the Ramsar Convention Secretariat for the International Photo Contest. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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