World Wetlands Day was observed on 2 February 2013 in Thimphu by a small group of individuals who are registered members of Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN). The day marks the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2nd February 1971 in Iranian city of Ramsar. The Convention is more popularly known as Ramsar Convention. Currently there are 163 countries as the contracting party to the convention and Bhutan is 161stmember of the convention with two Ramsar sites (Wetlands of International Importance).
The 2013 World Wetlands Day theme was “Wetlands and Water Management,” reflecting how the wise use of wetlands is essential to sustainable water management. This year’s slogan was “Wetlands Take Care of Water.” This year is also United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation. RSPN organized the event mainly to create awareness among its members who were then taken to Phobjikha valley to see Bhutan’s largest natural wetland.
Last year on 10th January during the winter session of the parliament, the National Council of Bhutan endorsed Bhutan’s accession to the Ramsar convention. Following the endorsement by the National Council, the National Assembly of Bhutan unanimously accepted the accession on 18th January, 2012. Phobjikha, Khothokha and Bumdeling were recognized by the government as the potential wetlands to be declared as Ramsar sites. Accordingly Khotokha and Bumdeling were designated as Wetlands of International Importance by RAMSAR Secretariat on 7th May 2012. The two sites are now included in the List of Wetlands of International Importance established by article 2.1. of the Ramsar Convention. Bumdeling is designated as Site No. 2032 and Khotokha as Site No. 2033. According to the Watershed Management Division under the Department of Forest and Park Services, Ramsar Information Sheet for Phobjikha has been submitted to the Ramsar Secretariat and in a few months time they will hear from the secretariat on its status.
Phobjikha in Wangduephodrang district is the largest wetland in the country receiving the largest number of Black-necked Cranes annually. More than 300 Black-necked Cranes visit the valley each year. This winter RSPN saw 368 Black-necked Cranes visiting the valley (Annual peak count conducted on 28th January ).
In her opening remarks, Ms. Rinchen Wangmo, the Officiating Executive Director of RSPN said that “World Wetlands Day is an important occasion to raise public awareness about the value of wetlands to society and the role of the Convention in their wise use and conservation”. She stated that wetland ecosystem plays an important role by providing ecosystem services in terms of providing valuable food to humans, habitat for wild and aquatic animals and water fouls and by regulating climate, purifying water and acting as carbon sink. Mr. Tshering Phuntsho, who looks after the conservation programs at RSPN mentioned that the traditionally “devalued wastelands” has increasingly gained importance in recent decades and the global community has started appreciating its values. He added that wetlands are considered as the kidneys of the landscapes and are ecological super markets.
The participants spent two days in Phobjikha exploring the wetland ecosystem, watching the majestic Black-necked Cranes and appreciating the uique landscapes of Phobjikha.
WWF Bhutan Program and Watershed Management Division also celebrated the World Wetlands Day in Bumdeling.