Earth Today | Environmental NGO takes advocacy online | News

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UNFAZED BY the challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, which negates large face-to-face gatherings, the Negril Area Environmental Protection Trust (NEPT), like a number of other entities, recently took celebrations for World Wetlands Day online.

World Wetlands Day 2021 was celebrated on February 2 under the theme ‘Wetlands and Water’. The celebrations come at a time when the planet is facing a freshwater crisis with consumption of the vital resource outstripping the rate at which nature can replenish.

It is against this background that NEPT hosted a live event via Facebook to draw attention to the value of wetlands, which include mangroves, morasses, lakes and ponds – and in a world where freshwater is a sought-after resource. This is especially so during a pandemic the likes of COVID-19, for which infection prevention and control measures include frequent handwashing and the cleaning of public or otherwise commonly used areas.

“It was important to host the event because we have seen over recent times how our wetlands have been degraded. It was important to highlight the importance of these natural ecosystems to let people know to stop destroying our resources,” said Davia Simpson, education and community outreach officer with NEPT.

“It was particularly important for us at NEPT, since the Negril Great Morass falls in our environmental protection area, to highlight for persons the importance of these ecosystems which play such as a critical role in the Negril landscape,” she added.

Severe decline

The Negril Great Morass is the second-largest freshwater wetland in Jamaica. It has, however, experienced severe decline in ecosystem functions due to canalisation, illegal dumping, land reclamation/wetland modification and other anthropogenic activities.

NEPT’s activities included the display of a model wetland made from repurposed materials, sand and clay, and put on show two important functions of wetlands, one, as a sponge and the other, as a filter. As a sponge, wetlands soak up water thus helping to prevent flooding. They also filter pollutants and sediments from water.

A 10-day countdown to World Wetlands Day also featured in NEPT’s celebrations this year, with important facts shared about wetlands via their Twitter and Instagram accounts. They include:

• that the devastation caused by many hurricanes and storms could have been much worse if not for coastal wetlands, such as mangroves;

• that wetlands serve as good carbon stores, such that their destruction results in the release of the carbon into the atmosphere, thus contributing to the greenhouse effect;

• that 40 per cent of the world’s species live and breed in wetlands; and

• that the income of more than one billion people globally rely on wetlands, which provide services worth some US$47 trillion annually.

Meanwhile, NEPT has given notice of its intention to continue its online public awareness raising efforts while also announcing its mini documentary series, titled ‘Wetlands Story Time’.

“The series highlights local knowledge of how the Negril Great Morass has changed from the ‘50s before Negril became a major tourist destination to the present day. It is definitely a feature to look forward to as we hear how Negril Great Morass has transformed into what it is now,” explained Simpson.

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