WHAT, EXACTLY, DO WETLANDS DO?
They are beautiful, natural open spaces. If all the wetlands of the world performed no function other than look good, that would be enough reason for us to preserve and protect them.
As we urbanise the world with steel and concrete, any patch of blue and green where we can go to relax, boat, fish, picnic, walk, bird-watch or just sit quietly and observe Nature’s splendour ought to be saved for future generations. But wetlands give us so much more than just beauty that it is a crime to lose them to commercialism.
Wetlands purify water, maintain the air and water cycles and recycle our waste matter.
They are a haven for a huge number of animals, waterfowls, fish, plants and micro-organisms. Many living beings rely on wetlands for food, shelter and breeding.
Migratory birds, many rare and endangered, find sanctuary in the southern wetlands. Their journey southwards is dependant upon a network of wetlands on the way where they can stop, rest, feed and recuperate before starting again.
Many fish species hatch and grow to maturity in the safety of mangrove swamps. They move out of these mangrove nurseries and into the oceans as they grow into adulthood.
An entire gamut of plant life can exist only within the special environmental conditions of the wetlands.
Wetland areas are a vital link in the food chain, processing food for some species. They play an important role in Nitrogen fixing—a process by which Nitrogen is altered to a form that can be used by living beings
These low-lying areas act as natural regulators and reservoirs for rivers. They slow down the speed of the water that rushes into a river from streams and give the river time to adjust to the tides. Without these wetlands, streams would flow unchecked into rivers and cause the river to overflow and flood its surroundings.
Thus, wetlands perform the important service of controlling devastating floods by acting as a collection point for overflow and then releasing the water slowly into the ground.
Wetlands maintain the ground water and surface moisture levels, and contribute pure water to wells.
Wetlands are the all-important factor in curbing soil erosion in coastal regions.
Mangrove marshes in coastal areas, especially in West Bengal and Bangladesh act as buffers against devastating storms in the Bay of Bengal.
Wetlands are vital for maintaining the local climate. They absorb air pollution and release Oxygen into the air we breathe.
Economically speaking, too, wetlands are worth their weight in gold! They support thriving fishing industries all over the world, provide wonderful paddy fields, save some cities millions of dollars by recycling waste free of cost, and give livelihood to millions of people.