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Ethiopia gets first wetlands directory

The Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (EWNHS) in Collaboration with Wetland International (WI) have launched “A First Directory of Ethiopian Wetlands” at a workshop held at the Azzeman Hotel in Addis Ababa on October 10, 2019.

The 566 page directory was prepared in collaboration with the Society and WI, supported financially by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Natural Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety of Germany.

Speaking at the opening of the workshop, Mengistu Wondafrash, the Executive director of the Society, said that wetlands are among the resources the country boasts of, but the attention given to wetlands in the country, so far, has not been enough. Because of this lesser attention, wetlands in Ethiopia are endangered because of expansion for agricultural and housing purposes, he said.

“Wetlands are imminently important for the development and nurturing of both underground and surface water resources,” he stressed, adding, “Hence, there needs to be proper water resource management, which eventually can heal the endangered wetlands. It should be the government’s big project to protect and preserve wetlands if the need is to build a healthy and sustainable development.”

Alebachew Adem, Program Manager at WI Ethiopia, said at the workshop that, “A quick review of literature on wetland resources in Ethiopia will show you that the focus so far has been on specific thematic issues such as wetlands nature, typology, characteristics, status, challenges and management options. The book we will be launching today is unique in the sense that it is the first directory which provides a comprehensive description and overview of the ecosystem services of Ethiopian wetlands, as well as an analysis of the causes of wetlands degradation with feasible options for the protection, restoration and sustainable management of wetlands.”

He further added that WI will be launching a “Guideline for the Sustainable Management of Wetlands in Ethiopia,” that will provide planners and practitioners, a framework for the effective and sustainable management of wetland resources.

Indicating that the causes for the degradation and loss of wetlands in Ethiopia include excessive water abstraction, drainage of wetlands, catchment degradation, mining, overgrazing, pollution, overexploitation, unregulated settlement and improper settlements; Getachew Gizaw, deputy director of Basin Development Authority of Ethiopia said that, the Forest, Environment and Climate Change Commission (FECCC) is preparing the first proclamation to ensure the proper management of wetland resources of the country. The Authority is also completing the Wetlands Buffer Zone proclamation and is already tabled for the government to approve.

“On the other hand, based on user-pay principle, charges of all water uses are developed and sent to the Council of Ministers for approval; [this] is vital to consider water as an economic good and improve over-abstraction problem on top of generating finance for intervention, ensuring environmental sustainability,” Getachew added.

The directory is the work of Abebe Getahun (PhD), a professor of Aquatic Biology at the Department of Zoological Sciences at Addis Ababa University, Brook Lemma (PhD), professor of Freshwater Ecology and Wetlands Management at Addis Ababa University, and Seyoum Mengistou (PhD), also a professor of Aquatic Ecology at Addis Ababa University. The book describes and maps all wetland resources of the country on the basis of river basins, classifies wetlands in different categories based on their restoration potential, and presents a national guideline for wetlands restoration.