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01 Feb 2018

World Wetlands Day 2018 – Making Cities Liveable

Posted in Latest news

All this week we’ve been bringing you stories of people living and working alongside WWT in urban wetlands around the world. The week finishes with World Wetlands Day on Friday 2nd February and WWT is celebrating urban wetlands across the UK and globally.

Wetlands are soggy bits of land. Literally, ‘wet-lands’.

We built our cities on them because they gave us water and washed away our waste. But our cities got bigger so we often simply filled them in and built over them.

It actually caused us a lot of problems. The wetlands had given our rivers somewhere to spill into when they flooded. They’d absorbed pollution and turned the nutrients into wildlife, which in turn gave us food and lush, beautiful surroundings.

But though we’ve lost almost all of these wetlands, unlike rainforests or ancient forests our wetlands can be recreated if only we can find a bit of space for them in our cities.

So this February 2nd, the annual World Wetlands Day, we’re celebrating the tiny pockets of urban wetlands that survive and the new ones that have been created to make our cities liveable.

Prince of Wales Community Wetlands, Enfield

In the UK

WWT’s wetland centres in London (main picture), Washington (Tyne & Wear) and Llanelli in West Wales are all examples of human made wetlands in urban areas. Each provides a haven for people and wildlife alike.

You can visit our wetland centres, and we also come to you. We’re helping communities around the country restore or create wetlands.

Just like this one in Enfield (pictured right )where local schoolchildren have helped us design and build a new wetland open space for people to relax, and to filter-clean water going into the local river.


WWT is at the forefront of improving city dwellers’ lives, by creating watery natural spaces that are mentally and physically good for us to be around. At the same time these spaces help to manage our water, so they create great value. In the UK it’s estimated that they return £9 of benefits for every £1 spent. Abroad, the benefits are potentially even bigger.

Among WWT’s global presence this World Wetlands Day:

  • In Madagascar, we’re in the capital Antananarivo to co-host a conference and training event alongside the government and other NGOs. This is particularly exciting because we will launch a National Wetland Guidance Manual, a project coordinated by WWT to build capacity for wetland conservation and sustainable use in the country. Zoom in on Antananarivo on Google Earth, you’ll immediately get the feel of how a growing city overtakes the wetland that sustains it.

    WWT Chief Exec Martin Spray explains urban wetland benefits to Chinese TV

  • In China, we’re in the mighty River Yangtze delta where natural wetlands and urban expansion are jostling for space. Along with the Chinese government, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands staff and Nanjing University, we’re co-hosting a similar conference where we’ll produce guidance on integrating wetlands and city development.
  • In Sri Lanka, we’re at Diyasaru Park in the capital Colombo for a World Wetlands Day event where we’re working with the community to restore, not lose, the city’s remaining wetlands. These vital urban spaces are helping to fight flooding, drought and pollution; they support wildlife and, quite amazingly, on steaming hot days they can help reduce the local air temperature by up to 10%! People really appreciate them.

Globally, WWT is often represented by its two subsidiaries – WWT Consulting which undertakes commercial wetland conservation projects and Wetland Link International which is an association for international wetland visitor centres.

Wherever you are, more and more of us are living in cities. We mustn’t forget that, beneath the concrete, the natural landscape still exists and where we can find space for water and nature to survive on the surface, wetlands will help make our cities liveable.

Aerial shot of WWT London Wetland Centre in urban West London

WWT Chief Exec Martin Spray and Ramsar Convention Secretary-General Martha Rojas, both front centre, among government and NGO delegates at urban wetland conference on World Wetlands Day in Changshu, China