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  • 27 July, 2021

  • 25 Min Read

Wetlands and Conservation

Wetlands and Conservation

  • 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 and Tropical rainforests > Savannah.
  • Definition: Areas of marsh, fen, peatland/ water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with static or flowing water, fresh, brackish 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; 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
    1. Marine (coastal lagoons, rocky shores and coral reefs).
    2. Estuarine (deltas, tidal marshes and mangrove swamps). Salt pans and Aquaculture also come under Wetlands.
    3. Lacustrine (lakes even oxbow lakes, reservoirs, tanks etc.)
    4. Riverine (wetlands along rivers and streams).
    5. Palustrine (marshes, swamps and bogs).
  • Functions of Wetlands:
    1. They retain water during dry periods (keeping the water table high) and mitigate floods by trapping suspended solids and nutrients.
    2. Habitat to flora, fauna and migratory birds; filtration of sediments; nutrient recycling; water purification; flood mitigation; maintenance of stream flow; groundwater 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 runoff; industrial effluents and climate change.
  • Difference from Lakes:
    1. National Lake Conservation Program (NCLP) considers Lakes as standing water bodies having a minimum water depth of 3 m. Wetlands have depths < 6 m.
    2. Foodchain: Lakes have grazing pathways and Wetlands have detritus pathways.
    3. Productivity and Biodiversity of Wetland > Lakes.
    4. Lakes do not do waste treatment but Wetlands perform waste treatment functions.
    5. Lakes have thermal stratification but not Wetlands.
    6. The dominant producer of lakes is phytoplankton but Wetlands have macrophytes.
    7. Lakes are Oligotrophic while Wetlands are mostly Eutrophic.

Read completely about Ramsar sites and wetlands in India: and then read the following content.

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 a depth of a 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 was 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 the 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, and discharge of 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 the 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 % (statewide).

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).

National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-systems (NPCA)

  • Over Rs, 1,000 crores have been released for the conservation of 157 wetlands in the country under the National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-systems (NPCA).
  • The NPCA is a conservation programme for both wetlands and lakes.
  • It is a Centrally-sponsored scheme, currently being implemented by the MoEFCC, and was formulated by merging the National Lake Conservation Plan and the National Wetlands Conservation Programme.
  • Under the NPCA scheme, the central assistance is based on proposals received from state governments, in conformity with the guidelines and budget availability.
  • The scheme covers various activities such as interception, diversion and treatment of wastewater, shoreline protection, lakefront development, in-situ cleaning i.e. desilting and de-weeding, stormwater management, bioremediation, catchment area treatment, lake beautification, survey and demarcation, bio fencing, fisheries development, weed control, biodiversity conservation, education and awareness creation, community participation etc.
  • Aim & Objectives
    1. It aims at holistic conservation and restoration of lakes & wetlands for achieving desired water quality enhancement besides improvement in biodiversity and ecosystem through an integrated and multidisciplinary approach with a common regulatory framework.
    2. The scheme would contribute to the reduction of pollution loads and improvement in biodiversity as also the goods and services provided by these water bodies to the stakeholders.

Erstwhile National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWCP), 1985-86

  • Under this programme, 115 wetlands have been identified which needs urgent conservation.
  • Objective is
    1. To prevent further degradation and ensuing wise use for the benefit of local communities and conservation of biodiversity.
    2. To provide financial assistance for conservation of priority wetlands and monitor implementation of programme.
    3. To prepare an inventory of the Indian wetlands.
    4. Since Land Resources belong to State, State Govt or UT are responsible for management of wetlands and implementation.
  • Now it is converted into National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-systems (NPCA) which is formulated by merging the National Lake Conservation Plan and the National Wetlands Conservation Programme.

Conservation of Lakes and Rivers

  • National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) is the Centrally Sponsored Scheme implemented by this Ministry for abatement of pollution in identified stretches of rivers in the country, excluding those in Ganga basin, by providing financial and technical assistance to the States/Union Territories (UTs) on cost sharing basis.
  • Rivers and lakes in the country are polluted mainly due to discharge of untreated or partially treated sewage from cities/towns and industrial effluents in their respective catchments, problems in operation and maintenance of sewage/effluent treatment plants, lack of dilution and other non-point sources of pollution.
  • Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in association with the State Pollution Control Boards/Committees in different States/UTs has been monitoring water quality of rivers and other water bodies in the country through a network of monitoring stations under the National Water Quality Monitoring Programme.
  • Based on water quality monitoring results, pollution assessment of rivers has been carried out by CPCB from time to time. As per the last report of CPCB in September, 2018, 351 polluted river stretches were identified on 323 rivers in the country based on monitoring results in terms of Bio-chemical Oxygen Demand, an indicator of organic pollution.
  • Other than NRCP, the Ministry is implementing the Central Sector Scheme of Namami Gange for rejuvenation of river Ganga and its tributaries. Under the Namami Gange programme, a total of 346 projects in Ganga basin States have been sanctioned at a cost of Rs.30,235 crore.
  • For conservation of lakes and wetlands in the country, the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change is implementing the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-systems (NPCA) on cost sharing basis. State/UT wise details of funds released under Namami Gange and NPCA during the last three years are at Annexure-II.

Source: PIB

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