Wetlands and agriculture partner for growth
By Zainab al Nasseri — The Sultanate marked the World Wetlands Day under the title “Wetlands and agriculture, partners towards development” at Qurum Nature Reserve under the auspices of Mohammed bin Salim al Toobi, Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs. The Day, which falls on February 2 every year, is supervised by Ramsar, the International Organization of Wetlands. Bader al Bulushi, Head of Wetlands Section at the Ministry, delivered a speech during the celebration about the importance of wetlands. Ahmed al Saeedi, Director of Marine Environment Department, stated that: “The Sultanate has always cared about protecting the environment, in all its elements. It is the fourth time that the Sultanate celebrates World Wetlands Day since 2010, a second time after officially joining Ramsar on November 25, 2012.”
Following this, a tour around the accompanying exhibition took place that was organised by the participants. This included a look at the mangroves nursery at the reserve and bird watching. Campaigns for cleaning the reserve from exotic grasses and plants was conducted, and seen as one of the best ways to maintain an ecological balance in the area. The Ramsar Convention is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. It is the only global environmental treaty that deals with a particular ecosystem. The treaty was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and the Convention’s member countries cover all geographic regions of the planet.
The Convention has described their mission as “The conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.” It uses a broad definition of the types of wetlands covered in its mission, including lakes and rivers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands and peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, near-shore marine areas, mangroves and coral reefs and human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs, and salt pans. At the centre of the Ramsar philosophy is the “wise use” concept. The wise use of wetlands is defined as “The maintenance of their ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development.” Wise use therefore has at its heart the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and their resources, for the benefit of humankind.
The Sultanate became an official member of Ramsar in 2013 and the first Ramsar Site, the 172-hectare was Qurum Nature Reserve wetland, lies at the heart of Muscat. It contains a natural Avicennia marina mangrove forest and salt marsh situated at the foot of the Hajar Mountains and faced the Gulf of Oman, representing a healthy and valuable coastal wetland in the arid Arabian Desert and Gulf of Oman eco-region. It is an important shelter and habitat for juvenile fish and marine invertebrates, and acts as a natural protection from tropical storms and cyclones. An estimated 194 species of birds visit the area, including terns, gulls, egrets and herons. The site’s urban setting provides a double advantage: not only does it have aesthetic value appreciated by residents and tourists alike, it also offers the opportunity to raise awareness about the value of wetlands within an easily accessible and natural mangrove forest. The ministry is planning to establish a state-of-the-art education and research centre at the site in 2015.