Urban Wetlands, Our Hidden Treasure Lands

Have you ever dreamed of visiting a treasure land? You might actually find one right next to your home, or after a small drive or a walk from your home. When you think of a city, you usually imagine busy roads, buildings, skyscrapers and bustling sidewalks. But we humans as living beings need clean air to breath, clean water to drink, food to survive and protection from disasters. Can we only live in a city with roads, buildings or with any other man-made structures? The answer is simple, “We cannot”. So then who makes our survival easy in these busy cities providing us our basic needs for living? In many cities, they are WETLANDS.

Wetlands are ecosystems which combines the properties of land and water. There are many types of wetlands; marshes, swamps, bogs, pens and shallow water bodies. Even paddy fields are also considered as wetlands, which are man-made. Some cities provide home for these ecosystems and we call them as “urban wetlands”.

Beddagana Wetland Park, Sri Lanka

Urban wetlands are natural land pieces in cities which holds remarkable and unique biodiversity. The distinct features of wetlands play a critical role making our cities livable and our lives comfortable.

Urban wetlands are considered as “kidneys” in cities which filter and improve the water quality. Water in cities is often polluted due to many human activities. But plants (especially reeds and many aquatic plants) and silt rich soil in wetlands have super power to absorb harmful toxic material from polluted water and convert them to non-toxic substances. This function helps to purify water in cities which is often get polluted from industrial waste, household sewage and agricultural pesticides.

Another main function of urban wetlands is flood controlling. Wetlands act as giant sponges in our cities that absorb rainwater and prevent occurring floods. Wetland soil is called as “hydric soil” and it has an amazing ability to absorb water.

Diyasaru Park, Sri Lanka

Diyasaru Park, Sri Lanka

Do you know that urban wetlands are also called as the “lungs” of our cities, which cleans our air? Generally, cities have poor air quality due to industrial and vehicle emissions. This is why urban residents are frequently suffering from many respiratory diseases. But trees in wetlands produce more oxygen while absorbing tons of carbon dioxide and other polluted air generated in cities.  In many cities, urban wetlands are the main source of oxygen production and carbon dioxide absorption.

Cities are concrete jungles that produce lot of heat which can be merely unbearable. However, high-water table and plant life in urban wetlands radiate moisture air helping to make our cities cool. This natural cooling mechanism have made urban wetlands to act as “giant air conditioners” in our cities.

Do you have vegetable plants and fruit trees in your garden? Have you ever thought how the wetlands in your city are essential for the survival of your garden? Pollination is the most critical step in the food production process and without pollinators there is no food for us. In cities, wetlands mostly are the main places which provides home and food for pollinators such as butterflies, bugs, bees, birds, bats etc. Thus, urban wetlands play a vital role in food production of our cities.

Colombo , Sri Lanka

In addition, many wetlands in cities are good cultivating lands. The nutrient rich soil in certain urban wetlands provide grounds to cultivate many crops such as vegetables, green leaves, yams. Still people depend on paddy cultivation in many cities. Moreover, water bodies in wetlands are rich source of inland fish which provide livelihoods for many people. Hence urban wetlands are treasure lands for many people in terms of livelihoods.

City life is regularly stressful with hustle bustle environment. But tranquility of wetlands provide space for urban residents for recreation as well as educational space to learn about nature. Many cities use urban wetlands to improve physical and mental health of urban residents.

Urban wetlands provide all these treasures and make our cities livable and sustainable. Unfortunately, as our cities keep on expanding day by day, many urban wetlands around the world are being threatened mainly through illegal filling, encroachment, dumping garbage and releasing waste water. Most of the urban wetlands have already disappeared now. Without urban wetlands our cities cannot survive. Hence, it’s a duty of all of us to take care of these precious treasure lands, our urban wetlands!

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