India adds five more Ramsar sites

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    In Context

    • Recently, India has designated five new wetlands of international importance, taking the total number of Ramsar sites in the country to 54.

    More about the news

    • The new sites are:
      • Karikili Bird Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu, 
      • Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest in Tamil Nadu,
      • Pichavaram Mangrove Forest in Tamil Nadu, 
      • Pala wetland in Mizoram,  
      • Sakhya Sagar in Madhya Pradesh.

    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 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 development, air 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.

    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, 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.

    World Wetlands Day 

    • It is observed every year on 2nd February to raise global awareness about the important role of wetlands for our planet.
    • On this day, environmentalists and community protectors come together to celebrate their love for nature. 
      • This is done through seminars, exhibitions, and special on-ground campaigns.
    • On the occasion of World Wetlands Day in 2022, India also added Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat and Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh to the list of Ramsar sites in India.

    Source: TH