More Ramsar sites across India - GulfToday

More Ramsar sites across India

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

India's wetland.

Illustrative image.

India’s Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav recently took to his twitter account to share the news that five more Indian wetlands have received Ramsar recognition as wetlands of international importance.

These sites include Tamil Nadu’s Karikili Bird Sanctuary, Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest, and Pichavaram Mangrove; Madhya Pradesh’s Sakhya Sagar, and Mizoram’s Pala Wetland. India has the highest number of Ramsar sites among the South Asian nations. India is aiming at getting a Ramsar tag for 75 of its wetlands on the 75th year of independence, according to officials. The list begins with the inclusion of Chilika lake and Keoladeo National Park — the first Ramsar-recognized sites in the country. Conserving wetlands is an essential task for the betterment of humanity and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The Karikili Bird Sanctuary is situated in the Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu and is well-known for cormorants, egrets, grey heron, darter, spoonbill, grey pelican, white ilbis and night heron. The Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest is one of the last remaining natural wetlands of Chennai located adjacent to the Bay of Bengal. The Pichavaram Mangrove is the second largest mangrove forest in the world covering about 1,100 hectare of area. It is separated from the Bay of Bengal by a sandbar.

As per a report in TravelandLeisureIndia, India’s geographical breadth and tropical diversity has ensured that the country has the maximum number of such sites in South Asia. The Ramsar wetlands in India sprawl over 11,000 sq. km. This is 10% of India’s total wetland area which spreads across 18 states.

Wetlands make approximately 6.4% of the earth’s surface globally. According to the National Wetland Inventory and Assessment of the Indian Space Research Organization, wetlands make about 152,600 square kilometers (4.63%) of the nation’s total land area (ISRO). 43.4% of the 1,52,600 sq. km of the interior area and 24.3% of the coastline area are made up of natural wetlands. 52,600 sq. km are covered by rivers and streams, 24,800 sq. km by reservoirs and barrages, 24,100 sq. km by intertidal mudflats, 13,100 sq. km by tanks, and 7300 sq. km by lakes and ponds, an Asiana Times articles states. Wetlands come in 19 different varieties in India. Gujarat has the highest percentage of wetlands of any state, with 34,700 sq. km or 22.7 percent of all wetlands in the country, or 17.56% of the state’s total geographic area. The extensive coastline of the state is to blame for this. West Bengal (12,400 sq. km), Uttar Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh each have an area of 14,500 km2 (11,100 sq. km).

The article adds that to escape the harsh winters in their breeding places, many bird species from Central Asia and Siberia migrate to milder tropical locations, including India and the equatorial regions. The Central Asian Flyway safeguards at least 279 populations of 182 migratory waterbird species in compliance with the Convention on the protection of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, including 29 species that are globally threatened or endangered and are only present during breeding, migration, and wintering. Throughout the winter, these migratory birds use the marshes of India as feeding and resting areas.

The Ramsar convention is an intergovernmental treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of Ramsar sites. Under the convention signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971, a Ramsar site is a wetland that is designated as a site of international importance. The Ramsar Convention is also known as The Convention on Wetlands. For a wetland to be a Ramsar site, it needs to fulfil at least one of the nine criteria defined by the Ramsar Convention. These criteria include supporting vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities. If a wetland supports 20,000 or more waterbirds or if it is a crucial source of food for fish, it is also designated as a Ramsar site.

The World Heritage Convention and the Convention on Wetlands have joined hands with the goal of site-based conservation. This includes a range of wetland habitats including lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peat lands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves, coastal areas, coral reefs, and also human-made sites such as fishponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans.

As far as global statistics are concerned, the United Kingdom and Mexico have the maximum number of such sites with 175 and 142 sites respectively. In terms of the largest area, Bolivia has 148,000 sq. km under the Convention protection.

Related articles