World  Wetlands Day (WWD) which was celebrated around the world yesterday with the theme ‘Wetlands and tourism’ highlighted the role of responsible tourism  in supporting both wetlands and people, according to campaigns manager of Birdlife Cyprus Martin Hellicar.

“Wetlands can be a huge draw for Cyprus tourism and a big plus in the industry’s portfolio if they are looked after properly.”

Celebrated every year on February 2 WWD marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971, in Ramsar , iran . The ramsar convention , an intergovernmental treaty, acknowledges the importance of wetland ecosystems, and provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and their resources.

According to Hellicar, Birdlife Cyprus together with a number of government departments will this year be focusing on ways to apply well managed tourism practices in and around the wetlands and to educate tourists on their value.

“These areas are legally protected and there is an urgent need  to stop all forms of development around them”, said Hellicar.”They have great potential as tourist attractions if they are managed responsibly by allowing only limited access to sensitive areas and controlled access to other areas”.

Cyprus has two ramsar Wetlands (Wetlands of International  importance) – the Larnaca and Akrotiri Salt Lakes. Both sites already attract tourists and birdwatchers from Cyprus and abroad, particularly due to their natural beauty ,the large number of flamingos that can be seen there, and their proximity to beaches and sites of cultural importance .

The salt lakes , the Phassouri marsh  and the surrounding wetlands also concentrate the highest number of waterbirds. More than 20,000 waterbirds regularly stop Lake during their migration in winter. The salt lakes are an important habitat for flamingos, with more that 3000 regularly using the lakes as a feeding ground during the winter season.

“with the proper management and inclusion of paths, fences and water level management of these habitats we can reap the long-term benefits that wetlands provide, ”said Hellicar.

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