30th January 2014 marked a special day for the Tana River Delta. On this day, the Tana River Delta Ramsar site was officially launched in a ceremony held at the Handaraku Baraza Park, in Kipini. The launch, which also marked the World Wetlands Day in the area, was attended by close to 700 people, including community members, school children and invited guests.
As a Ramsar site, the Tana Delta is recognized internationally as an important wetland area. The principles of the Ramsar Convention are that such wetlands are used to benefit people – but used wisely, so that their ecological functions are preserved. In particular, the wetlands should continue to support water birds and migratory birds.
The celebrations kicked off well but were briefly interrupted midway by two individuals who sought to have the event cancelled. Quick intervention from community members however restored order and proceeding resumed as planned. The community members were determined to see this important occasion being successfully marked and nothing could dampen their spirit.
Songs, traditional dances and recitals from various groups and individuals touched on the importance of conserving this important wetland. T-shirts, pamphlets and the Nature Kenya Birds of Tana River Delta 2014 calendars were distributed to those in attendance.
Local leaders and invited guests informed the communities about the importance of having the delta listed as a Ramsar site. Apart from giving the delta international recognition, listing as a Ramsar site will also:
The chief guest was Mr. Paul Gaphitu, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) assistant director in charge of education. He was accompanied by officials from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA). Representatives from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), The Nature Conservancy, Wetlands International and Nature Kenya were also in attendance.
At 163,600 hectares, Tana River Delta is designated an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area. It shelters globally threatened birds, and large gatherings of water birds – over 5,000 water birds of 13 species use it as a breeding site. The delta is the second most important estuarine and deltaic ecosystem in Eastern Africa. It comprises a variety of freshwater, floodplains, estuarine and coastal habitats, including diverse mangrove forests.
The Tana River Delta site was officially declared a Ramsar site under the Ramsar Convention in October 2012.
The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (named after the city of Ramsar in Iran where the Convention was signed in 1971) is an inter-government treaty that provides the framework for national action and international co-operation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.