An area of the Democratic Republic of Congo containing the largest body of fresh water in Africa has been added to the Ramsar Convention’s list of Wetlands of International Importance, making it the largest region ever to be designated as such. At more than six-and-a-half million hectares, the Ngiri-Tumba-Maingombe area is twice the size of Belgium and has one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity anywhere in the world. It is also a major carbon sink.
"WWF is delighted that Ramsar has recognized the importance of this extraordinary wetland and the efforts of the Democratic Republic of Congo to protect it," said James P. Leape, Director General of WWF International. "This is a significant step forward for the welfare of communities who depend on this wetland for their livelihoods and for the wildlife that lives there."
Recognition by the Convention, which was signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, means that there is now a framework to conserve the wetland, which is under threat from illegal logging, fishing and poaching, and a decline in water levels that is most likely attributable to climate change. The Congo basin is also the site of the world's third largest Ramsar wetland, the 5,908,074 hectare Grand Affluents area of the Congo river and major tributaries declared earlier this year.
“The Ngiri-Tumba-Maindombe area contributes to the regulation of flooding and regional climate and ensures that the quality of the water remains good enough for millions of people who depend upon it,” said WWF project Manager Bila-Isia Ingwabini.