Congo Basin Unveils World's Largest Protected Wetland

The Congo Basin region is home to the Ngiri-Tumba-Maindombe Complex – which was recently declared as the world’s largest Wetland Site of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention – a treaty established in 1971 that protects the world’s wetlands. WWF and partners began working with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2004 to officially recognize the complex.

Larger than twice the size of the state of Maryland, the 16.2 million-acre site is near the Lake Tumba landscape in the Central Western Basin of the DRC, and contains the largest freshwater body in continental Africa - the second driest continent in the world. The rivers and lakes of the region are a major storehouse for CO2, which helps slow down the rate of climate change. The wetland’s vegetation protects towns along the Congo River from floods, while the forests filter water and maintain its quality.

“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 Inogwabini Bila-Isia. “Waters of this zone need to be managed appropriately and the classification of the site will help with a coherent planning process and mobilize all stakeholders to abide by the rules.”

The Ngiri-Tumba-Maindombe site is also vital to the livelihoods of local people and supports one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity in the world. Its waters nourish the wide variety of domestic and commercial crops that are grown in the area, including cassava, oil palm and rice. Fish caught in its rivers are sold in the nearby cities of Kinshasa, Brazzaville and Mbandaka.

As WWF continues to work with local communities and international partners to improve sustainable development in the landscape and preserve the biodiversity, recognition of the site helps ensure that local economies are based on sustainably managed natural resources.