Ramsar Sites in India

  • Category
    Ecology and Environment
  • Published
    5th Feb, 2020

Issue

Context

In the latest development, India has added 10 more wetlands to sites protected by the Ramsar Convention. With this, a total of 37 sites in the country have been recognised under the international treaty.

Analysis

About the Convention:

  • The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
  • It is named after the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the Caspian Sea, where the treaty was signed on 2 February 1971.
  • Known officially as ‘the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat’ (or, more recently, just ‘the Convention on Wetlands’), it came into force in 1975.
  • The aim of the Ramsar list is to develop and maintain an international network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits. 
  • The convention entered into force in India on 1 February 1982.

World Wetlands Day

  • World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on 2 February. The day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
  • The 2020 theme for World Wetlands Day ‘Wetlands and Biodiversity’ is an opportunity to highlight wetland biodiversity, its status, why it matters and to promote actions to reverse its loss.

What is Montreux Record?

  • Montreux Record is a register of wetland sites on the Ramsar list, which are facing immediate challenges.
  • The listed sites are threatened by changes that affect their ecosystem components, processes, benefits and services which characterise the said wetland at a given point in time.
  • India’s two wetlands find a place in the Montreux Record. They are:
    • Keoladeo National Park, in Rajasthan was designated a Ramsar site in 1981 and listed in the Montreux Record in 1990.
    • Loktak Lake in Manipur, was declared a Ramsar site in 1990, and indexed in the Montreux Record in 1993.

The new list:

  • The 10 new ones are Nandur Madhameshwar, a first for Maharashtra; Keshopur-Miani, Beas Conservation Reserve and Nangal in Punjab; and Nawabganj, Parvati Agra, Saman, Samaspur, Sandi and Sarsai Nawar in Uttar Pradesh.
  • The other Ramsar sites are in Rajasthan, Kerala, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Tripura as given below:

S.No.

Name of Sites  

State

S.No.

Name of Sites  

State

1.        

Asthamudi Wetland

Kerala

2.        

Bhoj Wetlands

Madhya Pradesh

3.        

Bhitarkanika Mangroves

Orissa

4.        

Chandertal Wetland

Himachal Pradesh

5.        

Chilka Lake

Orissa

6.        

Deepor Beel

Assam

7.        

East Calcutta Wetlands

West Bengal

8.        

Hokera Wetland

Jammu and Kashmir

9.        

Harike Lake

Punjab

10.    

Kanjli Lake

Punjab

11.    

Keoladeo Ghana NP

Rajasthan

12.    

Kolleru Lake

Andhra Pradesh

13.    

Loktak Lake

Manipur

14.    

Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary

Gujarat

15.    

Point Calimere

Tamil Nadu

16.    

Pong Dam Lake

Himachal Pradesh

17.    

Renuka Wetland

Himachal Pradesh

18.    

Ropar Lake

Punjab

19.    

Rudrasagar Lake

Tripura

20.    

Sambhar Lake

Rajasthan

21.    

Sasthamkotta Lake

Kerala

22.    

Surinsar-Mansar Lakes

Jammu and Kashmir

23.    

Tsomoriri Lake

Jammu and Kashmir

24.    

Vembanad Kol Wetland

Kerala

25.    

Wular Lake

Jammu & Kashmir

26.    

Sunderbans Wetland

West Bengal

27.    

Upper Ganga River
(Brijghat to Narora Stretch)

Uttar Pradesh

 

  • With this, a total of 37 sites in the country have been recognised under the international treaty. 
  • Wetlands declared as Ramsar sites are protected under strict guidelines.

The perks of being declared as 'Ramsar site': 

Being declared as ‘Ramsar Site’ is beneficial for various reasons. The title will focus on:

  • conservation and wise use of the wetland
  • receive national and international cooperation for conservation and management
  • receive Central funding
  • boost in tourism
  • employment generation for locals and bring economic benefits for surrounding areas due to increased tourism
  • awareness creation for the conservation of other wetlands in the state

What are Wetlands?

  • According to the Convention, wetlands include almost any habitat where water is key to the environment and its wildlife.
  • Wetlands include swamps, marshes, billabongs, lakes, salt marshes, mudflats, mangroves, coral reefs, fens, peat bogs, or bodies of water - whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary.
  • Water within these areas can be static or flowing; fresh, brackish or saline; and can include inland rivers and coastal or marine water to a depth of six metres at low tide. There are even underground wetlands.
  • Anywhere from estuaries, lakes and rivers to underground aquifers, mangroves, coral reefs and rice paddies count.

The spread of Wetlands in India:

  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has carried out a National Wetland Inventory and Assessment using Indian remote sensing satellites during 2006-2011 and subsequently brought out national- and state-level wetland inventory atlases.
  • A total of 757,060 wetlands have been mapped in the country. The total wetland area estimated is 15.26 million hectares, which is around 4.63% of the geographical area of the country.

Significance of Wetlands:

  • Balancing ecosystem: Wetlands provide a wide range of important resources and ecosystem benefits such as food, water, fibre, groundwater recharging, water purification, flood moderation, erosion control and climate regulation. They are also one of the major supplies of freshwater.
  • Biodiversity hotspot: The wetlands support rich biodiversity and help stabilise water supplies, cleanse polluted waters, protect shorelines, and recharge groundwater aquifers.
  • Food basket: Wetlands play an integral role in the ecology of the watershed. The combination of shallow water, high levels of nutrients and primary productivity are ideal for the development of organisms that form the base of the food web and feed many species of fish, amphibians, shellfish and insects. 
  • A safe habitat: They are multifunctional habitats—they nurture a great diversity of life. They are also important as feeding and breeding grounds for migratory birds. 
  • Climate protection: Wetlands store carbon within their plant communities and soil instead of releasing it to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Thus wetlands help to moderate global climate conditions.
  • Flood protection: Wetlands function as natural sponges that trap and slowly release surface water, rain, snowmelt, groundwater and floodwaters, which lowers flood heights and reduces erosion.

Challenges:

  • Exploitative developmental activities: Wetlands in India are under threat due to urbanisation and land-use changes, municipal and industrial pollution and global climate change, which is an important determinant of loss and change in wetland ecosystems.
  • Various factors such as infilling for agriculture and construction, pollution, overexploitation of resources, invasive species and climate change threaten their existence.
  • Lack of protection & recognition: In India, forests have been historically protected since colonial times, while wetlands have been ignored from long. Over the years people who were traditionally involved in managing wetland sare no more there. Even in the way, wetland systems were considered by the government authorities has changed. All this together has impacted the wetlands and their future.
  • Disappearing at a fast rate: It is estimated that wetlands are vanishing three times faster than forests and their rate of disappearance is increasing. For instance, 87% of wetlands have been lost since the 1700s and 35% have disappeared since the 1970s.

Wetland conservation rules in India:

  • Recently, the Ministry of Environment has notified the new Wetland Conservation Rules that prohibit setting up or expansion of industries, and disposal of construction and demolition waste within the wetlands.
  • The new Rules also prohibit the conversion for non-wetland uses including encroachment of any kind, besides setting up of any industry and expansion of existing industries within the notified wetlands.
  • It prohibited:
    • manufacture, handling, storage or disposal of construction and demolition waste, covered under the Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016
    • hazardous substances, electronic waste, covered under the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016
    • solid waste dumping and discharge of untreated wastes and effluent from industries, cities, towns, villages and other human settlements, within such bodies.

No doubt, India has ignored its wetlands for long. But there is still some hope as in recent times, there has been a lot of focus on restoring their health. Though not all may get saved there is still a chance for some.

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