It’s World Wetlands Day!

This day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Each year since 1997, the Ramsar Secretariat has provided materials to help raise public awareness about the importance and value of wetlands.

South Africa is one of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention). South Africa signed the Ramsar Convention in 1971 at its inception and the membership was formalised in 1975 when South Africa ratified the Convention and became the fifth contracting party. One of the obligations of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention is to commemorate the World Wetlands Day (WWD).


Art created in the Chen Long wetlands, Kuoho Township, Yunlin County, Taiwan

The theme for 2022 is Wetlands Action for People and Natureand it highlights the importance of actions that ensure that wetlands are conserved and sustainably used. It’s an appeal to invest financial, human and political capital to save the world’s wetlands from disappearing and to restore those we have degraded.

Wetlands play a major role in water quality. Wetlands play a vital role by removing toxic substances and sediments from the water while improving downstream water quality and the overall health of the river system and communities.

Wetlands also help to reduce the severity of droughts and floods by regulating stream flows. Wetlands are effective in spreading out and slowing down floodwaters which reduces stream flows and thereby reduce the severity of floods downstream.

Wetlands also play a major role in water security as they act as sponges and absorb water during rainy and wet periods and release it during the dry seasons. Wetlands also help to recharge groundwater ensuring access to water. This is more than critical for South Africa as a water scarce country.


South Africa has 26 wetlands rated as internationally important and known as Ramsar sites. Perhaps the most spectacular is the St Lucia System, which stretches for 155 000 hectares and is part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal. Other wetland jewels that showcase our variety of habitats include:

  • The mouth of the Gariep (Orange) River
  • De Mond nature reserve in the Overberg
  • The Natal Drakensberg park, now known as the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park
  • The Makuleke wetlands within Kruger National Park

These extraordinary places leave nature lovers in awe of their unique range of wildlife and plants. Beautiful and fascinating as they are, wetland habitats are vital to people in practical terms, too, protecting our settlements from flooding, providing plant material for crafts and shelters and reducing the impacts of water pollution.


View a couple of our wetlands >>
And some more >>

Working for Wetlands is a joint initiative of the Departments of Environmental Affairs (DEA), Water and Sanitation (DWS) previously known as Water Affairs (DWA) and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).