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  • 18 June, 2021

  • 18 Min Read

Ramsar sites and Wetlands in India

Ramsar sites and Wetlands in India

Context: A wetland is a place where the land is covered by water. Marshes, ponds, the edge of a lake/ocean, the delta at the mouth of a river, low-lying areas that frequently flood — all of these are wetlands. Wetlands of international importance are also known as Ramsar sites.

Wetlands are areas where water is the primary factor controlling the environment and the associated plant and animal life. They occur where the water table is at or near the surface of the land, or where the land is covered by water.

Wetlands are defined as: "lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water".

Types of Wetlands:

  • Coastal Wetlands: Coastal wetlands are found in the areas between land and open sea that are not influenced by rivers such as shorelines, beaches, mangroves and coral reefs. A good example is the mangrove swamps found in sheltered tropical coastal areas.
  • Shallow lakes and ponds: These wetlands are areas of permanent or semi-permanent water with little flow. They include vernal ponds, spring pools, salt lakes and volcanic crater lakes.
  • Marshes: These are periodically saturated, flooded, or ponded with water and characterized by herbaceous (non-woody) vegetation adapted to wet soil conditions. Marshes are further characterized as tidal marshes and non-tidal marshes.
  • Swamps: These are fed primarily by surface water inputs and are dominated by trees and shrubs. Swamps occur in either freshwater or saltwater floodplains.
  • Bogs: Bogs are waterlogged peatlands in old lake basins or depressions in the landscape. Almost all water in bogs comes from rainfall.
  • Estuaries: The area where rivers meet the sea and water changes from fresh to salt can offer an extremely rich mix of biodiversity. These wetlands include deltas, tidal mudflats and salt marshes.

Why wetlands are called ‘Ramsar sites’?

Ramsar is a city in Iran. In 1971, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands was signed at Ramsar. The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.

More than 2300 wetlands of international importance!

  • Today, the Ramsar List is the world’s largest network of protected areas.
  • There are currently over 2,300 Ramsar Sites around the world. They cover over 2.5 million square kilometres, an area larger than Mexico.
  • The world’s first Site was the Cobourg Peninsula in Australia, designated in 1974.
  • The largest Sites are Ngiri-Tumba-Maindombe in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Queen Maud Gulf in Canada; these Sites each cover over 60,000 square kilometres.
  • The countries with the most Sites are the United Kingdom with 175 and Mexico with 142.
  • Bolivia has the largest area with 148,000 km2 under Ramsar protection.


World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on 2nd February.

  • This day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in Ramsar, Iran.
  • In 2019 World Wetlands Day was celebrated with a theme – 'Wetlands and climate change'.
  • 2020 theme for World Wetlands Day 'Wetlands and Water,' highlights the importance of wetlands as a source of freshwater and encourages action to restore them and stop their loss. This is especially important as we mark the UN Decades of Ocean Science and Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030).
  • On 2nd February 2021, India’s first Centre for Wetland Conservation and Management has been set up in Chennai. There are 42 wetlands in India that have international importance and hence recognized as the Ramsar Sites in India. Ramsar Sites are the wetlands that have international importance.

List of Ramsar sites in India [Latest]

Ramsar Sites in India

State – Location

Ashtamudi Wetland


Beas Conservation Reserve


Bhitarkanika Mangroves


Bhoj Wetlands

Madhya Pradesh

Chandra Taal

Himachal Pradesh

Chilika Lake


Deepor Beel


East Kolkata Wetlands

West Bengal

Harike Wetlands


Hokera Wetland

Jammu & Kashmir

Kanjli Wetland


Keoladeo National Park


Keshopur-Miani Community Reserve


Kolleru lake

Andhra Pradesh

Loktak lake


Nalsarovar Bird sanctuary


Nandur Madhameshwar


Nangal Wildlife Sanctuary


Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary

Uttar Pradesh

Parvati Agra Bird Sanctuary

Uttar Pradesh

Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary

Tamil Nadu

Pong Dam lake

Himachal Pradesh

Renuka lake

Himachal Pradesh

Ropar Wetland


Rudrasagar Lake


Saman Bird Sanctuary

Uttar Pradesh

Samaspur Bird Sanctuary

Uttar Pradesh

Sambhar lake


Sandi Bird Sanctuary

Uttar Pradesh

Sarsai Nawar Jheel

Uttar Pradesh

Sasthamkotta lake


Surinsar- Mansar lakes

Jammu & Kashmir



Upper Ganga river

Uttar Pradesh

Vembanad Kol Wetland


Wular lake

Jammu & Kashmir

Sunderban Wetland

West Bengal

Asan Barrage


Kanwar Lake or Kabal Taal


Lonar Lake


Sur Sarovar

Uttar Pradesh

Tso Kar Wetland Complex


Latest Updates about Indian Ramsar Sites

  1. 2nd February 2021 marked the 50th anniversary of the Ramsar Convention, the day which is also celebrated as World Wetlands Day. India on this occasion established Centre for Wetland Conservation & Management which is the first in the country. It is set up under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), at the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) in Chennai.
  2. Sambhar Lake had been in the news for its deterioration over salt mining. Sambhar Lake is a Ramsar Site in India.
  3. Ramsar Sites in India – Latest Addition –
    • In December 2020 – The Tso Kar Wetland Complex was added to the list of Ramsar sites in India. This includes the high-altitude wetland complex of two connected lakes, Startsapuk Tso and Tso Kar, in Ladakh.
    • In November 2020 – Maharashtra – Lonar Lake
    • In November 2020 – Agra (Uttar Pradesh) – Sur Sarovar also called, Keetham Lake
    • In November 2020 – Uttarakhand – Asan Barrage
    • In July 2020 – Bihar – Kanwar Lake or Kabal Taal
    • In February 2020 – Kolkata – Sunderban Reserve Forest (Sunderban Wetlands)
  4. Ayeyarwady in Manipur is eyed as a potential Ramsar site.

Ramsar Sites in India & Indian Wetlands

What are Ramsar Sites?

Any wetland site which has been listed under the Ramsar Convention that aims to conserve it and promote sustainable use of its natural resources is called a Ramsar Site.

What is the Ramsar Convention?

Ramsar Convention is known as the Convention of Wetlands. It was established in 1971 by UNESCO and came into force in 1975.

Is India a part of the Ramsar Convention?

Yes, India is a party to the Ramsar Convention. India signed under it on 1st February 1982.

How many Ramsar Sites are in India?

There are 42 Ramsar Sites in India [Latest]

Which is the largest Ramsar Site in India?

Sundarbans is the largest Ramsar Site of India

Which is the first Ramsar Site in India?

Chilika Lake (Orissa) and Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan) were recognized as the first Ramsar Sites of India

Which Indian state has the most number of Ramsar Sites?

Uttar Pradesh has the most number of Ramsar Sites in India. It has 8 Indian Wetlands.

Which is the smallest wetland in India?

Renuka Wetland in Himachal Pradesh is the smallest wetland of India.

Other Facts:

Ramsar sites are one of the major protected areas in the world. There are currently over 2400 Ramsar sites in the world covering an area of 2.5 million sq. kilometres.

  1. World’s First Ramsar site was identified in 1974, which was the Cobourg Peninsula in Australia.
  2. The United Kingdom has the world’s largest number of Ramsar sites i.e 175.
  3. February 2 is celebrated as International Wetlands Day as the Ramsar Convention was signed on February 2, 1971.
  4. The Ramsar Convention works with the collaboration of the following organizations:
    1. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
    2. Birdlife International.
    3. International Water Management Institute (IWMI).
    4. Wetlands International.
    5. Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT)
    6. WWF International
  5. To research any of the Ramsar sites, one can check the Ramsar Sites Information Service (RSIS)
  6. The number of contracting parties for the Ramsar Convention as of October 2019 is 171.


  • Wetlands are highly productive ecosystems that provide the world with nearly two-thirds of its fish harvest.
  • Wetlands play an integral role in the ecology of the watershed. The combination of shallow water, high levels of nutrients is ideal for the development of organisms that form the base of the food web and feed many species of fish, amphibians, shellfish and insects.
  • Wetlands' microbes, plants and wildlife are part of global cycles for water, nitrogen and sulphur. Wetlands store carbon within their plant communities and soil instead of releasing it to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
  • Wetlands function as natural barriers that trap and slowly release surface water, rain, snowmelt, groundwater and flood waters. Wetland vegetation also slow the speed of flood waters lowering flood heights and reduces soil erosion.
  • Wetlands are critical to human and planet life. More than one billion people depend on them for a living and 40% of the world’s species live and breed in wetlands.
  • Wetlands are a vital source for food, raw materials, genetic resources for medicines, and hydropower.
  • They play an important role in transport, tourism and the cultural and spiritual well-being of people.
  • They provide habitat for animals and plants and many contain a wide diversity of life, supporting plants and animals that are found nowhere else.
  • Many wetlands are areas of natural beauty and promote tourism and many are important to Aboriginal people.
  • Wetlands also provide important benefits for industry. For example, they form nurseries for fish and other freshwater and marine life and are critical to commercial and recreational fishing industries.

Threats to Wetlands

  • Urbanization: Wetlands near urban centres are under increasing developmental pressure for residential, industrial and commercial facilities. Urban wetlands are essential for preserving public water supplies.
  • Agriculture: Vast stretches of wetlands have been converted to paddy fields. Construction of a large number of reservoirs, canals and dams to provide for irrigation significantly altered the hydrology of the associated wetlands.
  • Pollution: Wetlands act as natural water filters. However, they can only clean up the fertilizers and pesticides from agricultural runoff but not mercury from industrial sources and other types of pollution.
    • There is growing concern about the effect of industrial pollution on drinking water supplies and the biological diversity of 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.
  • Dredging: The removal of material from a wetland or river bed. Dredging of streams lowers the surrounding water table and dries up adjacent wetlands.
  • Draining: Water is drained from wetlands by cutting ditches into the ground which collect and transport water out of the wetland. This lowers the water table and dries out the wetland.
  • Introduced Species: Indian wetlands are threatened by exotic introduced plant species such as water hyacinth and salvinia. They clog waterways and compete with native vegetation.
  • Salinization: Over withdrawal of groundwater has led to salinisation.

Conservation Efforts

Ramsar Convention

  • The Convention came in to force in 1975.
  • The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.
  • Three pillars of the Convention are:
    • Work towards the wise use of all their wetlands.
    • Designate suitable wetlands for the list of Wetlands of International Importance (the “Ramsar List”) and ensure their effective management.
    • Cooperate internationally on transboundary wetlands, shared wetland systems and shared species.
  • India has 27 Ramsar Sites which are the Wetlands of International importance.

Montreux Record

  • It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List.
  • Montreux Record is a register of wetland sites on the List of 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.
  • Two wetlands of India are in Montreux Record: Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan) and Loktak Lake (Manipur). Chilka lake (Odisha) was placed in the record but was later removed from it.

Source: TH

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