- What is a Wetland?
- Significance of Wetlands
- Efforts for Conservation of Wetlands
- How a site is designated as Ramsar site
- Montreux Record
- List of Ramsar Sites in India
What is a Wetland?
- A Wetland is a transitional land between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem. It is an ecosystem that is flooded either permanently or seasonally.
- UN Ramsar Convention defines wetlands as ‘areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, weather natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide doesn’t exceed six meters’.
Significance of Wetlands
Wetlands provide a wide range of important resources and ecosystem services such as:
Water and Food Security:
- Rice cultivation, fishery etc.
- Ground water recharge; Water Purification (e.g. East Kolkata Wetlands)
- Biodiversity -> wetlands are transition zones between two different ecosystems and thus are highly productive.
- Disaster mitigation: Buffer from floods, droughts, cyclones and other extreme events.
- For e.g. Deepor Beel of Guwhati serves as the flood prone city’s natural stormwater drain.
- Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Action
- Tourism is another area where Wetlands such as large lakes have played crucial role.
- For e.g. Ashtamudi lake of Kerala is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kollam.
- Coastal Protection is ensured by Wetlands as they act as buffer zones.
Threats faced by Wetlands of India: As per the recently released IPBES assessment, wetlands are the most threatened ecosystem. This impacts 40% of the world’s plants and animals that live or breed on wetlands.
- Water Pollution
- Disposal of untreated sewage; Dumping of municipal waste etc are threatening the natural functioning of the wetlands.
- Noise Pollution caused by rapid urbanization around the wetlands continues to be an irritant and is putting migratory visitors away.
- Encroachment on wetlands in the form of haphazard real-estate development.
- Very less focus on small non-notified wetlands.
- Absence of any inventory related to wetlands.
- Lack of resources with local bodies to ensure proper care and protection of the wetlands.
- Unclear and overlapping jurisdictions between various government agencies (for example – wetlands in Delhi are under the jurisdiction of Delhi Jal Board, Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, Public Works Department, ASI and Forest Department.
- But other than Delhi Jal Board and Forest Department, none of the other bodies have any expertise in management of wetlands.
Efforts for Conservation of Wetlands
a) The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention –
- It is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
- Prelims: The convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975. Since than almost 90% of UN member states, from all the world’s geographic regions, have accepted and become contracting parties. Headquartered in Geneva.
- 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”.
Concept of Wise Use:
- Through this, the convention continues to emphasize that human use on sustainable basis is entirely compatible with Ramsar principles and wetland conservation in general. Application of “wise use” concept is crucial to ensure that wetlands continue to support biological diversity as well as human well-being.
- The wise use guidelines emphasize on:
1. Adoption of national wetland policies, involving review of local legislation and institutional arrangements to deal with wetland matters.
2. Development of programs of wetland inventory, monitoring, research, training, education etc.
3. Take action at wetland sites, involving the development of integrated management plans covering every aspect of the wetlands and their relationships.
- The concept applies to all wetlands and water resources in contracting parties territories (not just to Wetlands of International Importance)
b) World Wetland Day: 2nd February
1. Mapping of Wetlands:
As per the “National Wetland Decadal Change Atlas, 2017 published by Space Application Centre – ISRO Ahmedabad, a total of 2,31, 195 wetlands (are >= 2.25 ha) have been mapped in the country. The total wetland area estimated is 15.98 million hectare (mha) including rivers and excluding paddy field areas that is around 4.8% of the geographical area of the country.
2. Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017, was notified by MoEF&CC under the EPA, 1986. It replaced the 2010 rules.
- Decentralization -> empowers states and Uts to identify and manage their wetlands.
- State Wetland authorities (SWAs) headed by State environment minister, to be
established in each state and UT
- The SWAs are responsible for effective conservation, management and monitoring of ecological condition of wetlands within their jurisdiction.
- National Wetland Committee to replace Central wetland regulatory authority and is responsible for monitoring the implementation of these rules
- Headed by Secretary, MoEF&CC.
- It will also advise the central government on appropriate policies and action programmes.
- State Wetland authorities (SWAs) headed by State environment minister, to be
- Banned activities like dumping solid waste, electronic etc.
- Wetland classified under RAMSAR.
- Wetland notified by Central, state or UTs.
3. Comprehensive Guidelines for the implementation of the above rules have also been published by MoEF&CC.
- These guidelines recommend that management of each notified wetlands is to be guided by an Integrated Management Plan which provides for monitoring requirement to measure changes in the wetlands and for measuring the effectiveness of management.
4. National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystem (NPCA) by MoEF&CC.
- It is a single conservation program for both wetlands and lakes and was formulated in 2015 by merging National Lake Conservation Program and National Wetland Conservation Program.
- It covers various activities like interception, diversion, and treatment of waste water;
shoreline protection; lake front development etc.
5. Mission Sahbhagita
- MoEF&CC has also launched Mission Sahbhagita, on the occasion of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, which is important step towards participatory conservation and wise use of wetland to enable a society ownership approach with communities leading at the forefront.
6. Save Wetland Campaign has also been launched by the Ministry as part of the Mission Sahbhagita.
D) Way Forward and Conclusion:
- Identification / Inventorization of all the small/big wetlands in the country.
- Implementation of various rules regarding protection of wetlands, prohibition of dumping etc.
- Involving local people especially farmers and fishermen who are dependent on the wetlands in its conservation through awareness campaigns etc. –
- Integrating Wetlands in Urban Planning:
- At urban level, wetlands management should be assigned to local municipalities to increase public accountability.
- At the same time, there is a need to strengthen municipalities through proper allocation of resources.
Coherent management and governance of wetlands in India will not only secure ecological balance, but will also provide protection from climate risks and add to economic value of the region through employment generation in multiple forms.
How a site is designated as Ramsar Site
According to Ramsar convention “Each contracting party shall designate suitable wetlands within its territory for inclusion in a List of Wetlands of International Importance”. – Grounds of selection: International Significance in terms of ecology, botany, zoology, limnology, or
- Accordingly any wetland which meets at least one of the criterion of identifying Wetlands of International Importance (9 criteria) can be designated by the appropriate national authority to be added in the Ramsar list.
Group A of the Criteria: Sites containing representative, rare or unique wetland types
- Criterion 1: If the wetland contains a representative, rare, or unique example of a natural or near-natural wetland type found within the appropriate biogeographic region.
Group B of the Criteria. Sites of international importance for conserving biological diversity Criteria based on species and ecological communities
- Criterion 2: It supports vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities.
- Criterion 3: It supports populations of plant and/or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region.
- Criterion 4: It supports plant and/or animal species at a critical stage in their life cycles, or provides refuge during adverse conditions.
Specific criteria based on water birds
- Criterion 5: It regularly supports 20,000 or more water birds.
- Criterion 6: It regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of water bird.
Specific criteria based on fish
- Criterion 7: It supports a significant proportion of indigenous fish subspecies, species or families, life-history stages, species interactions and/or populations that are representative of wetland benefits and/or values and thereby contributes to global biological diversity.
- Criterion 8: It is an important source of food for fishes, spawning ground, nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks, either within the wetland or elsewhere, depend.
Specific criteria based on other taxa
- Criterion 9: It regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of wetland-dependent non-avian animal species.
It is the principle tool of the Ramsar Convention for highlighting those sites, where an adverse change in ecological character:
- Has occurred
- Is occurring
- Is likely to occur as the result of technological developments, pollution or other human
interference and which are therefore, in need of priority conservation attention.
List of Ramsar Sites in India
|1||Tso Kar Wetland
|Ladakh||Tso Kar Wetland Complex was included in the Ramsar list in Dec 2020.
The complex is a notable example of two connected lakes, the freshwater Startsapuk Tso & the hypersaline Tso Kar. They are
situated in Changthang region of Ladakh.
Tso Kar means white lake, because of the white salt efflorescence found on the margins due to the evaporation of highly saline water.
The Tso Kar Basin is also an A1 category Important Bird Area (IBA) as per Bird Life International and a key staging site in the Central Asian Flyway.
The site is also amongst the most important breeding areas of the Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) in India.
This IBA is also the major breeding area of Great Crested Grebe
(Podicepscristatus), Bar-headed Geese (Anserindicus), Ruddy
Shelduck, Brown headed Gull, Lesser Sand-Plover, and many other species.
|2||Tso Moriri Lake||Ladakh|
|J&K||It falls within Jhelum River Basin and plays an significant role as a flood absorption basin, biodiversity conservation site, eco tourism site, and livelihood security of the local community.
It is located in the Baramulla district. It serves as an abode to many residents and migratory bird species. It is also recognized as an IBA.
High rate of siltation is leading to wetland characteristics being changed to landmass in several areas.
|J&K||It is located in Srinagar district. It is an abode to more than 4 lakh resident and migratory birds of at least 21 species.|
|15||Pong Dam Lake||Himachal
|Smallest of all Ramsar site in India.|
|UK||Became Ramsar Site in Oct 2020
It is a 444 hectare stretch of the Asan river running down to its confluence with Yamuna river in Dehradun district of UK.
The river was dammed by the Asan Barrage in 1967 and it resulted in siltation above the dam wall which created suitable habitat for birds. This supports, 330 species of birds including the critically endangered vultures – (red headed vulture and white-rumped vulture) and Baer’s Pochard. It is also a significant ground for migratory birds. It is strategically located within the Central Asian
This was declared conservation reserve in 2005 under Section 36A of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
|18||Sultanpur||Haryana||Sultanpur National Park from Haryana supports more than 220 species of resident, winter migratory and local migratory waterbirds at critical stages of their life cycles. More than ten of these are globally threatened, including the critically endangered sociable lapwing, and the endangered Egyptian Vulture, Saker Falcon, Pallas’s Fish Eagle and Black-bellied Tern.|
|19||Bhindwas||Haryana||Bhindawas Wildlife Sanctuary, the largest wetland in Haryana is a human-made freshwater wetland. Over 250 bird species use the sanctuary throughout the year as a resting and roosting site. The site supports more than ten globally threatened species including the endangered Egyptian Vulture, Steppe Eagle, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, and Black-bellied Tern|
|20||Keoldeo Ghana NP||Rajasthan|
|22||Upper Ganga River
(Brijghat to Narora
|29||Sur Sarovar Lake
(Keetham lake), Agra
|It is a human made lake that was created to supply water to the city of Agra. The wetland soon became an important and rich ecosystem. It now provides refuge to resident and migratory birds, and more than 60 species of fish. It is located on Delhi-Mathura Highway in Agra district.
It was declared a bird sanctuary in 1991.
It is also listed as an Important Bird Area.
Sur Sarovar also has the biggest Bear Rescue Center for rescued dancing bears.
|Haiderpur is one of the largest human-made wetland that was formed in 1984 after the construction of Madhya Ganga Barrage at the confluence of Saloni and Ganga rivers. It is a part of Hastinapur WLS.
It covers an area of 6,908 hectares and is situated on the
Source of fresh water and ground water recharge
It hosts, more than 30 species of plants, over 300 species of birds including 102 waterbirds and more than 40 fish and 10 mammals species.
It has CR Gharials; EN Hog Deer, Swamp Deer, Black bellied Tern, Steppe Eagle, etc
|Bihar||Kabartal (Kanwar Jheel ) Wetland, Bihar.Became Ramsar site in Oct 2020
This is Bihar’s first Ramsar site. It is located in Bihar’s Begusarai district. It covers 2,620 hectares of the Indo-Gengetic plains in Northern Bihar. It is a residual oxbow lake, formed during the meandering of Gandak river, a tributary of Ganga in the geological past.
It is an important stopover along the Central Asian Flyway, with 58 bird species using it to rest and refuel.
Some critically endangered birds of the site include re-headed vulture, white rumped vulture, Indian Vulture, Baer’s pochard, and the Sociable Lapwig.
Note: Kabartal is Asia’s largest freshwater oxbow lake.
|33||Deepor Beel||Assam||It is a lake located to the South West of Guwahati city in Assam. It is a permanent freshwater lake, in a former channel of Brahmaputra river, to the south of the main river. It is also an Important Bird Area. It is the only Ramsar site of Assam. The Deepor Bil WLS measures 4.1 sq km within this wetland.|
|38||Thol Lake||Gujarat||Thol Lake Wildlife Sanctuary from Gujarat lies on the Central Asian Flyway and more than 320 bird species can be found here. The wetland supports more 30 threatened waterbird species, such as the critically endangered White-rumped Vulture and Sociable
Lapwing , and the vulnerable Sarus Crane, Common Pochard and Lesser White-fronted Goose
|39||Wadhwan Lake||Gujarat||Wadhvana Wetland from Gujarat is internationally important for its birdlife as it provides wintering ground to migratory waterbirds, including over 80 species that migrate on the Central Asian Flyway. They include some threatened or near-threatened species such as the endangered Pallas’s fish-Eagle, the vulnerable
Common Pochard, and the near-threatened Dalmatian Pelican, Grey-headed Fish-eagle and Ferruginous Duck
|It is one of the two Important Bird Areas (IBA) in the Indore region as well as one of the most important birding sites in Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh.
Presently it is being used for water supply to the city of Indore and is being also used for fish culture on a commercial basis.
|45||Sundarban Wetlands||West Bengal||Largest Ramsar site in India
It comprises of hundreds of islands and a network of rivers, tributaries and creeks in the delta of the
Ganga and the Brahmaputra at the mouth of Bay of Bengal in India and Bangladesh.
Indian Sundarban consists of 60% of the country’s
total mangrove forest area.
Sundarbans Reserve Forest (SRF)
It is the largest mangrove in the world and is now a
wetland of international importance. So, it has now
become the largest protected wetland (4,23,000 hectare) in the country
|46||East Calcutta Wetlands||WB||It comprises of a larger number of waterbodies distributed east of city of Kolkata across the districts of South and North 24 Parganas. It is spread over 125 km2
Along with the wetlands, it also has 254 sewage-fed fisheries, agricultural and solid waste farms and some built up areas.
It was included in the Ramasar List in Aug 2002.
The hydrology of this wetland is unique. It doesn’t have a catchment area of its own. Approximately 250 million gallons of sewage flows into it everyday.
The sewage is then drawn by the local fishery owners into fish ponds or bheris directly from the tributary wastewater canals. .
Sunlight is enough to promote high growth of dense plankton and algae which serves as food for the fish
population which thrive on the nutrient rich plankton.
Organic pollution in the wastewater is thus reduced
by 80% and the coliform bacteria in the wastewater
is reduced by 99.9 % in these ponds.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation saves Rs 5,000 – 7,000 crores every year – the cost of sewage treatment plant for treating so much water.
Channels drain out the effluents and slurry from the treated wastewater, that is then used to grow rice
Around 25% of Kolkata’s fish and vegetables are grown with the help of this water. This wetland thus support livelihood of more than a lakh population.
It acts as kidney of Kolkata as the wastewater from the city is converted into food and used in fisheries and agriculture across this wetland.
Bheris are a unique feature of the Kolkata wetlands, and are shallow fishponds fed by naturally treated wastewater rich in algae, which allows for low-cost fish cultivation.
Safety of Fish/Vegetables: Some experts have raised the issue of heavy metal contamination from this kind of fishery and vegetable cultivation.
|47||Bhitarkanika Mangroves||Odisha||Bhitarkanika is also the second largest mangrove ecosystem in the country (after Sundarbans).
Freshwater mixed with seawater near the lower end
of the Brahmani and Kharasrota river to produce
brackish water ideal for mangroves.
Diversion of water from Brahmani river basin: The Talcher-Angul coal mines, steel and power generating units as well as the Kalinga Steel and power hub in Jajpur district were drawing enormous quantities of freshwater from the Brahmani river.
|50||Tampara Lake||Odisha||It is the most prominent fresh water Lake situated in the state of Odisha (Ganjam district). The depression in the ground gradually filled with rainwater from catchment flow and was called “Tamp” by the British and subsequently termed “Tampara” by the locals. It
supports varied biodiversity including that of birds, fishes, phytoplanktons, and more than seven species of terrestrial plants and macrophytes. It is important habitat for vulnerable species such as Cyprinus carpio, common pochard (Aythya ferina), and river tern (Sterna aurantia).
With large fish yield, it is an important source of livelihood for the local communities.
|51||Hirakud Reservoir||Odisha||It is the largest earthen dam in Odisha which started operating in 1957.|
|52||Ansupa Lake||Odisha||It is the largest freshwater lake of Odisha situated in the Banki sub-division of Cuttack district and has its fame from time immemorial for its scenic beauty.
It is an oxbow lake formed by River Mahanadi and is spread over 231 ha. It is home to several species of birds, fishes, mammals and macrophytes. It provides a safe habitat for at least three threatened bird species – Rynchops albicollis (EN), Sterna
acuticauda (EN) and Sterna aurantia and three threatened fish species – Clarias magur (Clariidae) (EN), Cyprinus carpio (Cyprinidae) (VU), and Wallago attu (VU).
The lake also sustains fresh water demand of the surrounding area and supports livelihood of local communities through fisheries and agriculture.
It is a famous wintering ground for migratory birds and is also known for its scenic beauty.
|54||Lonar Lake||Maharashtra||It is an ancient circular crater lake created by Meteorite strike in Maharashtra
It got National geo-heritage tag in 1979.
It is relatively young geo-logically, just about 50,000 years old.
A meteorite estimated to weigh two-million-tonnes slammed into the Earth, creating a 1.83-km diameter crater where the lake formed. It is distinguished by a near-perfect, circular ejecta blanket, which refers to earth thrown up during the collision, around it.
It is an endorheic (i.e. no outflow) basin, almost circular in shape.
The lake is high in salinity and alkalinity, as the lack of outflow leads to a concentration of minerals as the lake water evaporates.
Outside the lake, there is a considerable diversity of plant and animal life, as springs which help feed the lake provide a source of fresh water.
|55||Thane Creek||Maharashtra||It is located in Maharashtra India. Thane Creek is an inlet in the shoreline of the Arabian Sea that isolates the city of Mumbai from the Konkan region of the Indian Mainland. There are several source of fresh water to the Creek, the largest being the Ulhas River. It has been declared as Thane Creek Flamingo sanctuary.
Thane creek is fringed by Mangroves on both banks & comprise around 20% of the total Indian mangrove species.
The mangrove serves as a nursery for several fishes & sustains the local fishery. The area is an important part of the wetland complex of the Central Asian Flyway of the birds and has been categorized as IBA.
Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary: The Western bank of the Thane Creek has been declared the “Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary”.
|58||Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary||Karnataka|
|60||Karikili Bird Sancutary||TN|
|61||Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest||TN|
|63||Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve||TN|
|64||Konthankulam Bird Sanctuary||TN|
|67||Vellode Bird Sanctuary||TN|
|69||Chitrangudi Bird Sanctuary||TN||Chintrangudi Bird Sanctuary, locally known as “Chitrangudi Kanmoli” is located in Ramnathapuram district of TN.|
|70||Suchindram Theroor Wetland Complex||TN||It is part of the Suchindram-Theroor Manakudi Conservation Reserve. It is an important bird area and lies at the southern tip of the Central Asian Flyway of migratory birds.
It was formed for birds’ nesting purposes and it attracts thousands of birds every year.
|72||Vaduvur Bird Sanctuary||TN||It is a large human made irrigation tank and shelter for migratory birds as it provides a suitable environment for food, shelter, and breeding ground.
While these irrigation tanks have socio-economic and cultural significance, very little is known of their ecological importance.
These tanks have the potential to harbor good populations of resident and wintering water birds but no studies have been done
to confirm this.
|TN||It is a protected area near Mudukulathur Ramanathapuram District, TN. It is notable nesting site for several migratory heron species that roost in the prominent growth of babul trees here.
The breeding population of migratory waterbirds arrive here between October and February and include: Painted stork, white ibis, black ibis, little egret, great egret.
|75||Vembanad Kol Wetland||Kerala|
» What is wetland? Explain the Ramsar concept of ‘wise use’ in the context of wetland conservation. Cite two examples of Ramsar sites from India. [150 words, 10 marks] [Mains 2018]
» Discuss the major ecological functions and services provided by wetlands. Enumerate the key challenges faced by wetlands in India.