World Wetlands Day was celebrated for the first time in 1997 to mark the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of international importance (hereinafter – the Ramsar Convention). The Ramsar Convention was signed on 2 February 1971 in the city Ramsar (Iran) and is focused on environments important for habitats of water birds. The goal of the Convention is preservation and rational use of wetlands as a means of attaining sustainable development in the world. The World Wetlands Day is intended to draw attention of the public and governments of various countries to value of wetlands for existence of our planet.
Atpresent 144 countrieshavejoinedtheRamsarConventionandtheRamsarListof Wetlands includes over 1400 sites covering 122 mln ha. Wetlands are a type of key ecosystems having important environmental functions: providing fresh water for dry lands, regulation of hydrological process (surface and underground drainage), water purification, regulation of flooding water drainage, carbon accumulation, biodiversity preservation, serving as source of biomass as alternative energy.
Ukraine is a Party to the Ramsar Convention and according to its provisions decides on its own (on the basis of criteria defined by the Convention) wetlands in its territory that can be included to the Ramsar List of Wetlands, prepares their descriptions and submits them for consideration and approval to the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention. With the aim to implement Ukraine’s obligations within the Ramsar Convention, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted the Resolution “On activities for protection of wetlands of international importance” (№ 935 of 23.11.1995), approved the list of 22 wetlands in Ukraine of international importance covering 650 ha. In 1998 the Ramsar Convention Bureau included the wetlands to the Ramsar List of Wetlands. This was the beginning of developing in Ukraine the network of wetlands of international importance.
Officially the Ramsar Convention came into force in Ukraine on 15 November 1997. Back in 1975 (in the Soviet Union) the status of wetlands of international importance was granted to four wetlands in Ukraine (Yahorlytskyi, Tendrevskyi and Karkinitska bays and Danube floodplains) totally covering 211 thousand ha. On 29 October 1996, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine declared Ukraine to be an assignee of the Soviet Union regarding participation in the Ramsar Convention1. In 2002, with the aim to implement provisions of the Law of Ukraine “On Ukraine’s participation in the Convention on wetlands of international importance mainly as environment of habitat for water birds”2 (1996), the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine with its resolution approved “The procedure of granting the status of wetlands of international importance”3”. The documents provides for the procedure of granting the status of wetlands of international importance according to criteria of the Ramsar Convention. It also provides for development of passports for all wetlands of international importance, installation of special signs within their boundaries, indication of the boundaries on plans and maps of land lots.
The value of Ukrainian wetlands as ecosystems is primarily defined by transcontinental importance of the wetlands that are sites of moult and wintering of birds migrating between Eurasia and Africa. Ukrainian wetlands of international importance include both well-known ones (Dnistrovskyi estuary, Shatsk lakes, Milk estuary, Syvash lake, Synevyr lake, holm of the Prypiat’) and those unknown for majority of Ukrainians (Cartal lake, Chiliyske inflow, Shahany-Alibey-Burnas lake system, Obitychna spit and bay, Kryva spit and bay and others). The full list of Ramsar sites in Ukraine can be found at the web-site of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Ukraine at