India has added five more wetlands of international importance bringing the number of such sites in the country to 54 from the previous 49.
These include three wetlands:
(Karikili Bird Sanctuary, Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest and Pichavaram Mangrove) in Tamil Nadu,
Mizoram (Pala wetland) and
Madhya Pradesh (Sakhya Sagar),
In India Ramsar wetlands are spread over 11,000 sqkm and around 10% of the total wetland area in the country and across the 18 states.
The UK(175) and Mexico (142) smaller countries than India have the most Ramsar sites, whereas Bolivia span 1,48,000 sq km under the convention protection.
About the New Ramsar Sites
Karikili bird sanctuary:the Karikili Bird Sanctuary is situated in the Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu. The sanctuary is spread over an area of 61.21 hectares and is just 10 km from the well-known Vedanthagal Bird Sanctuary.
Palikaranai marsh reserve forest: Pallikaranai wetland is a freshwater marsh in the city of Chennai, India. It is situated adjacent to the Bay of Bengal, about 20 kilometres south of the city centre.
Pichavaram mangrove: The Pichavaram mangrove Forest is one of the largest mangrove forests in India covering about 1100 hectares of area. It is separated from the Bay of Bengal by a sand bar.
Sakhya Sagar: Sakhya Sagar Lake is located near Madhav National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
Pala wetland: Pala wetland is locatedin the Siaha district, Mizoram. The wetland is situated about 6 km from the nearest village called Phura and falls under the Phura forest range of the Mara autonomous district council region. Spread across 1850 hectares, Pala is the largest natural wetland in the state of Mizoram.
Wetlands are ecosystems saturated with water, either seasonally or permanently.
They include mangroves, marshes, rivers, lakes, deltas, floodplains and flooded forests, rice fields, coral reefs, marine areas no deeper than 6 metres at low tide, as well as human-made wetlands such as waste-water treatment ponds and reservoirs.
It does not include river channels, human-made water bodies or tanks specifically constructed for drinking purposes and structures specifically constructed for aquaculture, salt production, recreation and irrigation purposes.
Though they cover only around 6% of the Earth’s land surface, 40% of all plant and animal species live or breed in wetlands.
Significance of Wetlands
Breeding Ground:Dozens of species of birds of Central Asia and Siberia migrate to warmer tropical regions, including India and equatorial regions to escape harsh winter in their breeding grounds in these wetlands.
40% of the world’s plant and animal species live or breed in wetlands, according to UNESCO.
Thirty per cent of land-based carbon is stored in peatland;
One billion people depend on wetlands for their livelihoods,
Wetlands provide $47 trillion in essential ecosystem services annually, according to the Wetlands Day official website.
Wetlands play a vital role in the survival of human life because of their ability to perform various functions like water purification, water storage, processing of carbon and other nutrients, and stabilization of the shoreline.
The major threat to wetlands:
Urbanization:Wetlands near urban centres are under increasing developmental pressure for the residential, industrial and commercial facilities.
Anthropogenic activity:Due to unplanned urban and agricultural development, industries, road construction, impoundment, resource extraction and dredge disposal, wetlands have been drained and transformed, causing substantial economic and ecological losses in the long term.
Agriculture activities:Following the Green Revolution of the 1970s the vast stretches of wetlands have been converted to paddy fields. Even the Construction of a large number of reservoirs, canals and dams to provide for irrigation significantly change the hydrology of the associated wetlands.
Deforestation:Removal of vegetation in the catchment leads to soil erosion and siltation.
Pollution:Unrestricted dumping of sewage and toxic chemicals from industries has polluted many freshwater wetlands.
Climate change:Increased air temperature, shifts in precipitation, increased frequency of storms, droughts, and floods; increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration; and sea level rise could also affect wetlands.
Issues in wetland conservation:
Major regulatory bodies like the Central Wetland Regulatory Authority had limited impact as they only have advisory powers.
Additionally, all existing laws ignore the participation of local communities in governing and monitoring wetlands which is most important for conserving the wetland.
Further, cities are unable to cater to the water demand due to a policy vacuum as there is no well-defined ‘National Urban Water Policy’ to guide urban water management.
The lack of awareness and knowledge of wetlands among people and their ecosystem services can be blamed for this widespread loss.
About Ramsar sites
Ramsar sites are generally wetlands having International importance.
The term Ramsar was coined when the International treaty for the Conservation and Sustainable use of Wetlands was signed in the city of Iran called Ramsar in 1971 by UNESCO which came into force in 1975.
February 2 is celebrated as International Wetland Day as the Ramsar Convention was signed on February 2, 1971.
The inclusion of a wetland in the list embodies the government’s commitment to take the steps necessary to ensure that its ecological character is maintained. The Convention includes various measures to respond to threats to the ecological character.
There are currently over 2,300 Ramsar Sites around the world, covering over 2.1 million square km. The first Site under Ramsar was the Cobourg Peninsula in Australia, designated in 1974.
The largest Ramsar wetland isLlanos de Moxos, located in the South American country of Bolivia. At more than 17 million acres, the wetland is roughly equal in size to the US state of North Dakota
India has a total of 7,57,060 wetlands, covering 1.6 crore hectares or 4.5% of India’s area.
Global Wetland Conservation Initiatives:
The Ramsar convention- explained above
Montreux Record:The Montreux Record is a register of wetland sites on the list of Ramsar wetlands of international importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.
It is a voluntary mechanism to highlight specific wetlands of international importance that are facing immediate challenges.
It is maintained as part of the List of Ramsar wetlands of international importance.
Indian sites on the Montreux Record
At present 2 Indian sites are listed under it:
Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan)
Loktak Lake (Keibul Lamjao National Park, Manipur)
In 1993 Chilka lake, Orissa was also listed in Montreux’s record due to the problem of Siltation. But later in 2002, it was removed from the list as a problem tackled by govt actions.
World Wetland Day: 2 February each year is World Wetlands Day to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and our planet.
Cities4Forests Global Campaign: It works closely with cities around the world to connect with forests, and spread the importance of wetlands and their multiple benefits to help combat climate change and protect biodiversity in cities.
Conservation Efforts by India:
National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems (NPCA):
It is a centrally sponsored scheme namely, for the conservation and management of wetlands in the country on cost sharing basis between the Central Government and respective State/UT Governments.
The scheme aims at holistic conservation and restoration of wetlands for achieving the desired water quality enhancement, besides improvement in biodiversity and ecosystems.
It aims to promote mainstreaming of wetlands in developmental programming with States by supporting the formulation and implementation of integrated management plans, capacity development and research.
Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017:
The 2010 version of the Rules provided for a Central Wetland Regulatory Authority; the 2017 Rules replace it with state-level bodies and created a National Wetland Committee, which functions in an advisory role. The newer regulations removed some items from the definition of “wetlands” including backwaters, lagoons, creeks, and estuaries.
ISRO carried out the National Wetland Inventory and Assessment using remote sensing satellites from 2006 to 2011 and mapped around two lakh wetlands in India.
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