From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Ramsar wetlands in India
Mains level : Not Much
India has added five more Ramsar sites, or wetlands of international importance, bringing the number of such sites in the country to 54.
Newly added Ramsar Sites
- Karikili Bird Sanctuary, Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest and Pichavaram Mangrove in Tamil Nadu,
- Sakhya Sagar in Madhya Pradesh
- Pala Wetlands in Mizoram
What are Wetlands?
- A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail.
- The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other landforms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil.
Significance of Wetlands
- Wetlands provide a wide range of important resources and ecosystem services such as food, water, fibre, groundwater recharge, water purification, flood moderation, erosion control, and climate regulation.
- They are, in fact, are a major source of water and our main supply of freshwater comes from an array of wetlands that help soak rainfall and recharge groundwater.
- They provide many societal benefits: food and habitat for fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species; water quality improvement; flood storage; shoreline erosion control; economically beneficial natural products for human use; and opportunities for recreation, education, and research, etc.
India and Ramsar Wetlands
- India’s Ramsar wetlands are spread over 11,000 sq.km — around 10% of the total wetland area in the country — across 18 States.
- No other South Asian country has as many sites, though this has much to do with India’s geographical breadth and tropical diversity.
- The UK (175) and Mexico (142) — smaller countries than India — have the most Ramsar sites, whereas Bolivia spans the largest area with 1,48,000 sq.km under the Convention protection.
- The National Wetland Inventory and Assessment compiled by the ISRO estimates India’s wetlands to span around 1,52,600 square kilometres.
What makes Ramsar designation significant?
- Being designated a Ramsar site does not necessarily invite extra international funds.
- Acquiring this label helps with a locale’s tourism potential and its international visibility.
Criteria for Ramsar site designation
To be Ramsar site a place must meet at least one of the criteria as defined by the Ramsar Convention of 1961, such:
- Supporting vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities or,
- If it regularly supports 20,000 or more waterbirds or,
- Is an important source of food for fishes,
- Spawning ground,
- Nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks are dependent upon.
- Static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres
- Does not include river channels, paddy fields, human-made water bodies/ tanks specifically constructed for drinking water purposes
Back2Basics: Ramsar Convention
- The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (better known as the Ramsar Convention) is an international agreement promoting the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
- It is the only global treaty to focus on a single ecosystem.
- The convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975.
- Traditionally viewed as a wasteland or breeding ground of disease, wetlands actually provide fresh water and food and serve as nature’s shock absorber.
- Wetlands, critical for biodiversity, are disappearing rapidly, with recent estimates showing that 64% or more of the world’s wetlands have vanished since 1900.
- Major changes in land use for agriculture and grazing, water diversion for dams and canals, and infrastructure development are considered to be some of the main causes of loss and degradation of wetlands.