Ramsar Wetlands Sites

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    • Recently, India added 11 more wetlands to the list of Ramsar sites to make a total 75 Ramsar sites in the 75th year of Independence.  

    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.

    About the recent additions

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    • Tampara Lake
      • Tampara Lake is among the most prominent freshwater lakes in the State of Odisha situated in Ganjam district.
      • The depression on the ground gradually filled with rainwater from catchment flow and was called “Tamp” by the British and subsequently termed “Tampra” by the locals.
      • The wetland is an important habitat for vulnerable species such as Cyprinus carpio, common pochard (Aythya ferina), and river tern (Sterna aurantia).
    • Hirakud Reservoir
      • Hirakud Reservoir, the largest earthen dam in Odisha started operating in 1957.
      • Out of the known 54 species of fish from the reservoir, one has been classed as being endangered, six near threatened and 21 fish species of economic importance.
    • Ansupa Lake
      • Ansupa Lake is the largest freshwater lake of Odisha situated in Banki subdivision of Cuttack district and has been famous from time immemorial for its scenic beauty, biodiversity, and natural resources.
      • The wetland is an oxbow lake formed by River Mahanadi.
    • Yashwant Sagar
      • Yashwant Sagar 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 mainly used for water supply to the city of Indore and is also being used for fish culture on a commercial scale.
    • Chitrangudi Bird Sanctuary
      • Chitrangudi Bird Sanctuary, locally known as “Chitrangudi Kanmoli” is located in Ramanathapuram district in Tamil Nadu.
      • Chitrangudi Bird Sanctuary is an ideal habitat for winter migratory birds.
    • Suchindram Theroor Wetland Complex
      • Suchindrum Theroor Wetland complex is part of the Suchindrum-Theroor Manakudi Conservation Reserve. 
      • It is declared an Important Bird Area and lies at the southern tip of the Central Asian flyway of migratory birds.
    • Vaduvur Bird Sanctuary
      • 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.
      • These tanks have the potential to harbor good populations of resident and wintering water birds.
    • Kanjirankulam Bird Sanctuary
      • Kanjirankulam Bird Sanctuary is a Protected area near Mudukulathur Ramanathapuram District, Tamil Nadu.
      • It is notable as a nesting site for several migratory heron species that roost in the prominent growth of babul trees there.
    • Thane Creek
      • Thane Creek is located in Maharashtra, India. There are several sources of fresh water to the creek, of which Ulhas River is the largest, followed by many drainage channels from various suburban areas of Mumbai, Navi Mumbai & Thane. 
      • It has been declared as Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary.
    • Hygam Wetland Conservation Reserve
      • Hygam Wetland falls within the River Jhelum basin and plays a significant role as a flood absorption basin, biodiversity conservation site, eco-tourism site, and livelihood security for the local communities.
      • It serves as an abode to many residents and migratory bird species. 
      • It is also recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA).
    • Shallbugh Wetland Conservation Reserve
      • Shallabug Wetland Conservation Reserve is located in the District Srinagar, UT of J&K.
      • It serves as an abode to more than four lakh resident and migratory birds of at least 21 species. 
      • Shallabugh Wetland plays a major role in the natural control, amelioration or prevention of flooding, It is also important for seasonal water retention for wetlands or other areas of conservation importance downstream.

    Facts/ Data

    • Tamil Nadu has the maximum number of Ramsar sites at 14, followed by Uttar Pradesh, which has 10.
    • India in 1982 became a signatory to the 1971 Ramsar Convention. 

    Significance of Wetlands

    • Conserve Biodiversity: 
      • Wetlands play a vital role in conserving biodiversity, they purify and replenish groundwater
      • They also help fight climate change. 
      • Wetlands are also known to have among the highest soil-carbon densities and therefore play a major role in buffering carbon dioxide emissions.
    • 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.
      • The wetlands are also vital feeding and breeding grounds for migratory birds.
    • Erosion Control: 
      • Wetlands help in erosion control and protect our coastlines.
    • Tourism:
      • Acquiring this label of “Ramsar Sites” also helps with a locale’s tourism potential and its international visibility.

    Problems face by wetlands

    • Settlement issues & Degradation:
      • Often viewed as wastelands to be drained, filled and converted to other purposes.
      • The main causes of wetlands loss and degradation include major changes in land use, especially an increase in agriculture and grazing and urban infrastructure developmentair and water pollution and excess nutrients, and water diversion (dams, dikes and canalization).
    • Disappearing wetlands:
      • As per the Ramsar Convention on wetlands report, the wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests, with 35% of the wetlands lost from 1970-2015.
      • The alarming situation demands 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.
    • Exclusion of Local Communities: 
      • The existing laws completely ignore the participation of local communities in governing and monitoring wetlands. 

    Way Ahead

    • The high-tension power line and sewer line passing through the lakes should be shifted from there.
    • The district administration should formulate a management plan for systematic development of the lakes, while an action plan is under way to get Menar notified as a wetland at the earliest.  

    About the Ramsar Convention

    • The Ramsar Convention signed on February 2, 1971, is one of the oldest inter-governmental accords signed by members 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.
    • Criterias:
      • To be Ramsar site, however, it must meet at least one of nine criteria as defined by the Ramsar Convention, such as: 
        • 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, and nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks are dependent upon.
    • Global Ramsar Sites:
      • 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 United Kingdom (175) and Mexico (142) — smaller countries than India — have the maximum Ramsar sites. 
      • Bolivia spans the largest area with 148,000 sq km under the Convention protection.

    Source: PIB