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A wetlands policy is to be formulated during the 2006/07 financial year, which will recognize the value and role of wetlands and highlight the importance of protecting them.
Principal Director of the Land and Environment Ministry, Judith Maloney made the announcement during the launch of World Wetlands Day activities at the University of the West Indies’ Marine Laboratory in Port Royal this morning(Feb. 2).
She said that there was a need for Jamaicans to see wetlands as valuable resources, which contribute to the national economy and the sustainable development of the island, as well as to recognize their role in lessening the impact of hurricanes by reducing wind and wave action and currents.
In the meantime, she announced that the Portland Bight wetland area on the island’s south coast was to be designated and added to the Ramsar list of Wetlands of International Importance this year.
The Principal Director said the designation was important, as it would allow the area to be recognized by the international community and provide access to resources to research and protect the area, as well as access to information and technical assistance. Jamaica already has two sites on the Ramsar list. These are the Black River Lower Morass and Palisadoes Port-Royal.
World Wetland’s Day is celebrated on February 2 internationally and is being observed this year under the theme: ‘Livelihoods at risk: In the face of poverty, wetlands are a lifeline’. The observation marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention of Wetlands signed in Ramsar Iran in 1971.
Jamaica became the 104th party to the convention known as the Ramsar Convention in October 1997.Chairman of the National Ramsar Committee, Dr. Dale Webber, in his remarks, noted that the Ramsar Convention was the only one that addressed wetlands in their entirety. Pointing out that only two per cent of Jamaica’s landmass was reserved as wetlands, Dr. Webber said more areas needed to be so designated.
Noting the plans for the designation of the Portland Bight area and its subsequent addition to the Wetlands of International Importance List, Dr. Webber said there were plans to have one area designated as a Ramsar site each year.
World Wetlands Day activities are being undertaken by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) in collaboration with the National Ramsar Committee. Activities include displays mounted at the Kingston and St. Andrew Parish Library and the Institute of Jamaica between January 30 and February 3 as well as the distribution of posters to libraries island wide.
The Ramsar Convention is an inter-governmental treaty, which deals with the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. Over 1500 wetland sites totaling 130.5 million hectares have been designated for inclusion on the Ramsar List.