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Wetland regains protected area status
Latinamerica Press
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Government approves law banning any activity that affects the water flow of mangroves.

As part of the celebration of World Wetlands Day on February 2, the government of Panama passed Law 39 declaring the wetland of the Panama Bay a protected area at risk due to the construction of real estate projects.

The law reinstated the wetland´s status as a protected natural area and it added the wetland to the list of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which had been suspended in 2012 by the Supreme Court.

President Juan Carlos Varela, who took office on July 1, 2014, said it is his government´s priority to "guarantee the right to a healthy environment" and that the legislation "represents the effort, struggle and conviction of the civil society that organized and prevented with scientific and legal arguments the destruction of part of this site of international importance".

The law prohibits hunting and any activity that affects the water flow of mangroves, permits only artisanal fishing, and also bans real estate projects for two years until a management plan is developed.

Environmental groups, who for years denounced the destruction of the mangroves in the Bay of Panama due to the construction of golf courses, a hotel, industrial parks, shops and luxury homes, welcomed the measure.

The National Association for the Conservation of Nature expressed its satisfaction that Panama "has this law to protect its wetlands" from the many interest in the area.

In addition to being the habitat for fish, lobsters, shrimp and crabs, there have been 295 plant species belonging to 96 families recorded in this wetland.
Ramsar Convention
World Wetlands Day was established in 1977 in commemoration of the signature of the Convention on Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention, on February 2, 1971 in Ramsar, Iran. Currently, the Ramsar list includes 2,186 protected sites in 168 countries, covering a total area of 208.5 billion hectares.

For the purpose of this Convention “wetlands are areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres.”

The Ramsar list include 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.

The Ramsar Convention’s mission is “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.”

The importance of wetlands lies in their rich biodiversity. These sites are regulators of the water cycle and climate; they generate water resources for the supply of fresh water and are a wildlife refuge.

This year World Wetlands Day was celebrated with the theme "Wetlands for our future", whereby the Ramsar Convention sought to raise awareness about the need to protect wetlands.

“The future of humanity depends on wetlands. They purify and replenish our water, and provide the fish and rice that feed billions. Wetlands act as a natural sponge against flooding and drought, and protect our coastlines. They burst with biodiversity, and are a vital means of storing carbon. Unfortunately, these benefits are still not widely known, and wetlands are often viewed as wasteland, something to be drained, filled, and converted to other purposes. To date, 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900,” warned the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.

In Panama there are 39 wetlands of which five have the status of Ramsar sites: the Bay of Panama, the Gulf of Montijo Veraguas, San Sand-Pond Sak in Bocas del Toro, Punta Patiño in Darien and Damani Guariviara in Ngäbe Bugle.
Latinamerica Press.

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