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  • 17 January, 2021

  • 18 Min Read

Migratory birds in Harike wetland, Punjab

Migratory birds in Harike wetland, Punjab

  • Winter migratory water birds using the central Asian flyway have started making a beeline to Punjab’s Harike wetland, offering a delight for bird lovers.
  • Birds such as the Eurasian coot, greylag goose, bar-headed goose, gadwall and the northern shoveler are the prominent ones that could be sighted at Harike. Among other species, common pochard, spot-billed duck, little cormorant, pied avocet, great cormorant, ferruginous pochard and common teal have been spotted.
  • “On average, the number has been anywhere between 92,000 and 94,000 over the years. The average number has been stable,” Geetanjali Kanwar, Coordinator - Rivers, Wetlands and Water Policy, WWF-India, told The Hindu. But the number of some species, including northern lapwing, Pacific golden plover, black-bellied tern and cotton pygmy goose, has dwindled, she noted.


  • Wetlands are the lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or land is covered by shallow water.
  • Productivity of Estuaries > Swamp, Marshes, Wetlands > Coral Reefs > Equatorial & Tropical rainforests > Savannah.
  • Definition: Areas of marsh, fen, peatland/ water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with static or flowing water, fresh, backish or salt, including areas of marine water the "depth of which is < 6 m".
  • Waterlogged soil for at least 7 days, adapted plant life (hydrophytes) and hydric soils (not enough Oxygen) are the main characteristics of Wetlands.
  • It occupies 18.4% of the area of which 70% is under paddy.
  • Inland wetlands are more than Coastal Wetlands in India.
  • Natural wetlands in India range from high altitude wetlands in the Himalayas; to flood plains of the major river systems; saline and temporary wetlands of arid and semi arid regions; coastal wetlands like lagoons, backwaters, estuaries, mangroves, swamps and coral reefs.

There are 5 major wetland types are

  • Marine (coastal lagoons, rocky shores and coral reefs).
  • Estuarine (deltas, tidal marshes and mangrove swamps). Salt pans and Aquaculture also come under Wetlands.
  • Lacustrine (lakes even oxbow lakes, reservoir, tanks etc.)

Riverine (wetlands along rivers and streams).

  • Palustrine (marshes, swamps and bogs).

Functions of Wetlands:

  • They retain water during dry periods (keeping the water table high) and mitigate floods by trapping suspended solids and nutrients.
  • Habitat to flora, fauna and migratory birds; filtration of sediments; nutrient recycling; water purification; flood mitigation; maintenance of stream flow; ground water recharge; drinking water; buffer shorelines against erosion; tourism, recreation and cultural heritage; stabilisation of local climate; livelihood to local people etc.
  • Threats to Wetlands: Conversion for Agriculture; Overgrazing; Removal of sand from beds; Aquaculture; Habitat destruction and deforestation; Pollution; Domestic waste and agricultural run off; industrial effluents and climate change.

Difference from Lakes:

  • National Lake Conservation Program (NCLP) considers Lakes as standing water bodies having minimum water depth of 3 m. Wetlands have depth < 6 m.
  • Foodchain: Lakes have grazing pathway and Wetlands have detritus pathway.
  • Productivity and Biodiversity of Wetland > Lakes.
  • Lakes do not do waste treatment but Wetlands perform waste treatment function.
  • Lakes have thermal stratification but not Wetlands.
  • Dominant producer of Lake is phytoplankton but Wetlands have macrophytes.
  • Lakes are Oligotrophic while Wetlands are mostly Eutrophic.

Wetlands (Conservation and Mgt) Rules, 2010

  • It specifies activities harmful to Wetlands like industrialization, construction, dumping of untreated waste & reclamation + prohibit these activities in wetlands.
  • Central Wetland Regulatory Authority set up to implement rules. (Replaced in 2017 by National Wetland Committee).
  • Harvesting & dredging can be carried out with prior permission.

Wetland Rules, 2017

  • Wetlands are defined as an area of marsh, fen, peatland or water. It can be natural or artificial, permanent or temporary. It includes areas of marine water with the depth of maximum 6 m.
  • The rules apply to Ramsar Wetlands and those notified by Central, State Govts and UT administration.
  • Digital inventory of all wetlands: mandatory for State authorities. Wetland management given to States and UTs Authority. It is to be updated every 10 years.
  • Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority (CWRA) is replaced by National Wetland Committee, which has merely an advisory role. It is to be headed by MoEF Secretary. It will also recommend designation of Ramsar sites/ Wetlands of International importance.
  • It stipulates setting up State Wetlands Authority in each State/ UT headed by State MoEF. It will develop a comprehensive list of activities to be regulated and permitted within notified wetlands.
  • Restrictions:
  1. Encroachments on wetlands have been banned.
  2. It also prohibits solid waste dumping, discharge on untreated waste and effluents from industries and human settlements.
  • The rules prohibited activities like conversion of wetland for non-wetland uses including encroachment of any kind, industries, waste dumping and discharge of untreated wastes and effluents.

National Wetland Inventory and Assesment:

  • The 1st scientific national inventory of wetlands in India was carried out by Space Applications Center (ISRO), Ahmedabad at the behest of MoEF.
  • Lakshadweep has the largest % of Wetlands (96.12%) followed by A&N. Gujarat has the highest % (statewise).

National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWCP), 1985-86

  • Under this programme, 115 wetlands have been identified which needs urgent conservation.

Objective is

  • To prevent further degradation and ensuing wise use for the benefit of local communities and conservation of biodiversity.
  • To provide financial assistance for conservation of priority wetlands and monitor implementation of programme.
  • To prepare an inventory of the Indian wetlands.
  • Since Land Resources belong to State, State Govt or UT are esponsible for management of wetlands and implementation

Wetlands International

  • It is a global organization that works to sustain and restore wetlands and their resources for people and biodiversity. It is an independent, not for profit organization supported by Govt and NGOs.
  • It does not fund. It was founded in 1937 as an International Wildfowl Enquiry. Not under UN.
  • Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) across Asia and Australia is coordinated by Wetlands International and Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).

For complete news on Ramsar Wetlands: click here

Source: TH

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