- Five more wetlands in India have been included in the Ramsar Sites, or Wetlands of International Importance, taking the number of such sites in the country to 54.
New Ramsar Sites:
Karikili Bird Sanctuary (Tamil Nadu):
- The sanctuary is spread over five kilometers in width and is home to cormorants, egrets, gray herons, open-billed storks, darters, spoonbills, white albanese, night herons, grebes, gray pelicans, etc.
Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest (Tamil Nadu):
- The Pallikaranai Marsh is one of the few and last remaining natural wetlands in South India. It covers an area of 250 square kilometers which includes 65 wetlands.
Pichavaram Mangroves (Tamil Nadu):
- One of the last mangrove forests in the country.
- It consists of an island covered with mangrove forests with vast expanses of water.
Sakhya Sagar (Madhya Pradesh):
- Formed by Maniyar River in the year 1918, Sakhya Sagar is situated near Madhav National Park.
Pala Wetlands (Mizoram):
- It is home to a wide range of animals, birds and reptiles.
- Its geographical location comes under the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot, hence it is rich in animal and plant species.
- The lake is a major component of Palak Wildlife Sanctuary and supports major biodiversity of the sanctuary.
- The Ramsar site is a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, also known as the ‘Convention on Wetlands’, an intergovernmental environmental treaty established by UNESCO in 1971 and named after the city of Ramsar in Iran where the convention was signed that year.
- Ramsar recognition is the recognition of wetlands around the world that are of international importance, especially if they provide habitat for waterfowl (about 180 species of birds).
- Conservation of such wetlands and the judicious use of their resources involves international interest and cooperation.
- The Sundarbans in West Bengal is the largest Ramsar site in India.
- India’s Ramsar wetlands, 11,000 sq km of the country’s total wetland area in 18 states.
- No other South Asian country has as many sites, although this has a lot to do with India’s geographical expanse and tropical diversity.
One of nine criteria must be met in order to be a Ramsar site.
- Criterion 1: If it contains a representative, rare or unique example of a natural or near-natural wetland type found within the appropriate biogeographic area.
- Criterion 2: If it supports vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities.
- Criterion 3: If it supports a population of plant and/or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region.
- Criterion 4: If it supports plant and/or animal species at a critical stage in their life cycle or provides shelter during adverse conditions.
- Criterion 5: If it regularly supports 20,000 or more waterfowl.
- Criterion 6: If it regularly supports 1% of individuals in a population of a species or subspecies of waterbird.
- Criterion 7: if it supports a significant proportion of indigenous fish subspecies, species or families, life-history stages, species interactions and/or populations that are representative of the benefits and/or values of the wetland and Types contribute to global biological diversity.
- Criterion 8: If it is an important source of food for fish, spawning grounds, nurseries and/or migration routes on which fish stocks depend, either within wetlands or elsewhere.
- Criterion 9: If it regularly supports 1% of the population of species or subspecies of wetland-dependent non-avian animal species.
- Ramsar Tag helps develop and maintain an international network of wetlands that are critical to human life through the conservation of global biological diversity and the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits.
- Sites are protected under strict convention guidelines.
- Wetlands are ecosystems that are seasonally or permanently saturated or filled with water.
- These include mangroves, swamps, rivers, lakes, deltas, floodplains and floodplains, rice fields, coral reefs, marine areas where low tides do not exceed 6 meters deep, as well as man-made wetlands such as treated wastewater.
- Although they cover only 6% of the ground surface. 40% of all plant and animal species are found or breed in wetlands.
Helping in the fight against climate change:
- Wetlands produce CO2 (carbon dioxide), CH4 (methane), N2O (nitrous oxide) and greenhouse gas (GHG) by reducing climate and land-use-mediated GHG emissions and increasing their ability to actively collect CO2 from the atmosphere Helps in stabilizing the concentration.
- Wetlands also help reduce the risk of disasters such as floods by protecting beaches.
- Wetland microbes, plants and wildlife are part of global cycles of water, nitrogen and sulfur.
- Wetlands store carbon within their tree communities and soil instead of releasing it into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
Importance of Peatlands:
- The term ‘peatland’ refers to peat soils and surface wetlands.
- They cover only 3% of the world’s land surface, but store twice as much carbon as forests, thus playing an important role in meeting global commitments on climate crisis, sustainable development and biodiversity.
- Peatlands, one of the world’s largest carbon reserves, are scarce in India and require urgent attention.
Paradise for Migratory Birds:
- Millions of migratory birds visit India and wetlands are important for this annual event.
- Ecologically dependent on wetlands, migratory waterfowl connect continents, hemisphere cultures and societies through their seasonal migration.
- The diversity of wetland communities provides essential habitat for birds.
Cultural and Tourism Importance:
- Wetlands are also closely related to Indian culture and traditions.
- Loktak Lake in Manipur is revered by the locals as “Ima” (Mother), while Khechopalri Lake in Sikkim is popularly known as “Lake of Wishes”.
- The North Indian festival of Chhath Puja is one of the most unique expressions of the association of people, culture, water and wetlands.
- Dal Lake in Kashmir, Khajjiar Lake in Himachal Pradesh, Nainital Lake in Uttarakhand and Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu are popular tourist destinations.
- According to the Global Assessment of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Forum on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), wetland ecosystems are most threatened by human activities and global warming.
- Wetlands located near urban centers are facing developmental pressure due to increase in residential, industrial and commercial facilities.
- In the case of sea level rise in areas surrounded by urban wetlands, the increase in coastal pressure can eventually lead to the loss of wetlands.
- The vulnerability of wetlands to climate change and associated factors and pressures is highly likely to increase.
- Rise in temperature, change in rainfall, increase in frequency of storms, droughts and floods, increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration and rise in sea level can also affect wetlands.
Adverse effect on adaptability:
- The adaptability of wetlands is also likely to decrease due to the potential for adverse effects on ecosystems.
- Building aquifers to increase the storage of fresh or fresh water, for example in upper reaches of the river, can further increase the risk of salinization in coastal wetlands.