Ramsar sites announced on World Wetlands Day

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    • On the occasion of World Wetlands Day, Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat and Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh have been added to the Ramsar site. 
    • India has a network of 49 such sites, the highest in South Asia, covering 10,93,636 hectares.
      • The certification brings visibility to ecologically sensitive wetlands and helps in conservation.

    Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary

    Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary 

    • It is the largest natural floodplain wetland in the district of Sant Kabir Nagar, Uttar Pradesh. 
    • Established in the year 1980, the sanctuary’s lake is important for the migratory birds who fly down here in the winter season. 
    • Biodiversity
      • It provides a safe wintering and staging ground for a large number of species of the Central Asian flyway
      • Migratory birds from Tibet, China, Europe, and Siberia visit the place between November to January. 
      • Birds like Indian purple moorhen in addition to more than 30 fish species can be found here. 
    • It is a coastal wetland with rich avifaunal diversity providing a safe habitat to endangered and vulnerable species.
    • Located 12 km away from Jamnagar District headquarters in Gujarat.
    • Biodiversity: It is a freshwater wetland, heaven for birds. 
      • It supports marine and freshwater birds, has marshy lands, mangroves, Prosopis areas, mudflats, salt pans, creeks, forest scrub, sandy beaches, and farmlands bordering the area. 
      • The sanctuary is home to 309 species of birds- resident and migratory birds. 
      • Endangered bird species such as Dalmatian Pelican, Asian Open Bill Stork, Black-Necked Stork, Darter, Black-headed Ibis, Eurasian spoonbill, and Indian Skimmer can be spotted here. 

    About World Wetlands Day

    • It is celebrated each year on 2 February to raise awareness about wetlands.
    • This day also marks the anniversary of the Convention on Wetlands, which was adopted as an international treaty in 1971.
    • This year’s celebration of World Wetlands Day in 2022 is especially significant — as on 30 August 2021, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 75/317 that established 2 February as World Wetlands Day.
    • Theme: Wetlands Action for People and Nature which is highlighting the importance of actions to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands for humans and planetary health.

    What are the Wetlands?

    • Wetlands are land areas, which are seasonally or permanently flooded with water.
    • The Ramsar Convention’s definition for wetlands includes “areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether 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 tides, does not exceed six meters”.
    • Fishponds, rice paddies, and saltpans are human-made wetlands.

    Significance of Wetlands

    • Conserve Biodiversity: Wetlands play a vital role in conserving biodiversity, they purify and replenish groundwater. They also protect our coastlines and help fight climate change. In urban India, they work as critical carbon sinks.
    • Ecosystem Services: 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.
    • Prevent Flooding: The wetlands serve as a natural sponge against flooding and drought. They play a role in preventing urban flooding as well.
    • Home for wildlife: They offer the perfect place for animals to be safe and hidden from predators – perhaps from the air – as well as provide a lot of diverse foodstuffs such as grasses, mosses and other plant life.
    • Erosion Control: Wetlands act as a sort of erosion control. Emergent – plants that are firmly rooted in the ground – grow almost exclusively in wetlands, and due to this, the flow of water slows down.
    • They also serve as a source of income for people. The local villagers depend on wetlands for their livelihood in the form of fishing, agricultural activities etc.
    • Moreover, these can also be used for recreation and tourism purposes and supports scientific and educational activities. 

    Challenges to Wetlands

    • Data Analyis  
      • Nearly 90% of the world’s wetlands have been degraded since the 1700s, and we are losing wetlands three times faster than forests.
      • As per the Ramsar Convention on wetlands report, the wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests, with 35% of the wetlands lost from 1970-to 2015.
      • It is an alarming situation, demanding urgent attention as 40% of the world’s plant and animal species breed in wetlands.
    • Ignoring Urban Wetlands: The conservation efforts mostly centred on the notified Ramsar sites ignore several other urban wetlands that are equally important. 
    • Lack of Awareness: In addition to urbanisation needs, lack of awareness and knowledge on wetlands and their ecosystem services can be blamed for this widespread loss.
    • The existing laws completely ignore the participation of local communities in governing and monitoring wetlands.

    India’s Initiatives for Conservation of Wetlands

    • National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-systems (NPCA): 
      • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) is currently implementing this centrally sponsored scheme (60:40, 90:10 for the North Eastern States and 100% Central Govt. funded for UTs).
      • Aim: For conservation and management of identified wetlands in the country on a cost-sharing basis between the Central Government and respective State/ UT Governments.
    • World Wetlands Day (WWD):
    • The MoEF&CC organises the National level celebration of World Wetlands Day (WWD) on 2nd February of each year in collaboration with the concerned State Governments.
    • To raise awareness among all sections of the society about the values and functions of wetlands and the utilization of their resources. 
    • Wetlands (Conservation & Management) Rules, 2017:
      • The 2017 Rules replaced the Central Wetland Regulatory Authority with state-level bodies and created a National Wetland Committee, which functions in an advisory role.
      • These wetlands authority comprises ministers, officials and experts, in all states.
      • The newer regulations removed some items from the definition of “wetlands” including backwaters, lagoons, creeks, and estuaries.
    • Wetlands Rejuvenation Programme: 
      • The MoEFCC implemented this programme within the framework of transformative ideas of the Government of India i.e. “Start work on Restoration & Rejuvenation of at least 100 major wetlands across the country”. 
    • Centre for Wetland Conservation and Management (CWCM):
      • A dedicated centre has been set up under the MoEF&CC, at the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) in Chennai. 
      • It has multiple roles to play in the conservation of wetlands. 
      • It will address specific research needs and knowledge gaps to address wetlands and their management and bring capacity development and cutting-edge research to wetlands in India. 

    Way Ahead

    • Mainstreaming Policies: Mainstreaming wetlands ecosystem services and biodiversity into India’s developmental policies and urban planning processes, including climate change mitigation, is the pressing need of the hour. 
    • More Information: There is also a need for more scientific data, imagery, maps and other relevant tools to provide knowledge on the status of wetlands. 
    • Management in Urban Areas: Mega urban schemes like Smart Cities Mission and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation need to add the aspects of sustainable management of wetlands. As urbanisation is only likely to intensify, the country’s wetlands need to be safeguarded urgently. 
    • Public Connection: The need is to enhance public connection with nature. Encouraging residents and stakeholders to play a role in the protection and improvement of the green-blue assets to develop community ownership. 
    • Awareness & Participation: Awareness is the first step towards protection. Using local experiences and expertise, a robust policy can be drawn to transform the conditions of the wetlands in the country. 
    • It is urgent that we raise national and global awareness about wetlands in order to reverse their rapid loss and encourage actions to conserve and restore them.

    About the Ramsar Convention,

    • The Convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975. 
    • The convention entered into force in India on 1 February 1982.
    • It is one of the oldest intergovernmental treaties signed by member countries to preserve the ecological character of their wetlands of international importance.
    • Aim: To develop and maintain an international network of wetlands that are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits.

    Source: IE