Biodiversity Environment

Why wetlands are important?

Recently 10 more wetlands have been added to the international treaty from India. With this, a total of 37 sites in the country have been recognised and it is government commitment to conserve the wetlands on international front. 

Nandur Madhameshwar, first of its kind from Maharashtra; Nawabkanj, Parvati Agra, Saman, Samaspur, Sandi and Sarsai Natwar in Uttar Pradesh; Keshtopur-Miani, Beas conservation reserve and Nangal in Punjab.

It started with the initiative “Convention on wetlands” in the city of Ramsar, Iran in 1971, is one of the oldest Inter-Governmental accords for preserving the ecological characteristics of the wetland in order to control and safeguard the environment and the associated plant and animal life. India has entered into force on 1st February 1982.

What are wetlands ?

Wetlands are areas where water is the primary factor controlling the environment and the associated plant and animal life. They occur where the water table is at or near the surface of the land, or where the land is covered by water.

However, Ramsar convention has wider perspective in determining the wetlands which come under its aegis. It includes areas of marsh, fen, pet land or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, breaking or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres as mentioned in Article 1.1 of ramsar convention.

In addition, for the purpose of protecting coherent sites, Article 2.1 incorporates riparian and coastal zones adjacent to wetlands, and islands, marine water deeper than six metres at low tide lying within the wetlands . 

What is Montreux Record ?

The Montreux Record is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference. It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List.

Chilika lake was the first to be included in this record in India and due to the well conservation it was removed from the list in 2002.

Currently there are 2 wetlands from India has been in this record namely Loktak from Manipur and Keoladeo from Rajasthan.

How important wetlands are?

Wetlands are considered as cradles of biological diversity, providing primary productivity upon which countries species of plants and animals depend for survival. They support high concentration of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrate species.

Wetlands are also important storehouses of plant genetic material. Rice, for example, which is a common wetland plant, is the staple diet of more than half of humanity.

Why to conserve wetlands ?

With the increasing world population and human demands stresses on wetland resources for agricultural expansion and urban development continue to increase.

Global freshwater consumption rose sixfold on account of doubling rate of population growth. One third of the population today living in the countries already experiencing moderate to high water stress.

In addition, global impact on climate change has pronounced impact on wetland ecosystem through alterations in hydrological regimes. To batter management and to conserve wetland resources, we need to know the distribution and extent of wetlands and monitor their dynamic changes.

Wetland maps and inventories can provide crucial information for wetland conservation, restoration and management. Geographical information system and remote sensing technologies have proven to be useful for mapping and monitoring wetland resources.

How far it is distributed in the world?

Globally, there are over 2,300 Ramsar sites covering over 2.1 million sq km. The world’s first site was the Cobourg Peninsula in Australia, designated in 1974. The countries with the most number of wetland sites are United Kingdom with 175 and followed by Mexico with 142 . 

The Pantanal wetland which lies within Brazilian states in the center of the South America continent with 1,48,000 sq km and one of the most pristine in the world. However the other largest sites are Ngiri-Tumba-Maindombe in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Queen Maud Gulf in Canada with 60,000 sq km each.

Wetlands of India 

India has well-heeled wetlands distributed in different geographical regions. Most of the wetlands are precisely or circumlocutory connected with major river systems. Totally 27,403 wetlands, of which 23,444 are inland wetlands and 3,959 are coastal wetlands. Off which 37 has been recognised under the Ramsar Convention.

According to Directory of Asian wetlands, excluding rivers it accounts for 18.4 % of the country’s area of which 70% are under paddy cultivation. 

Chilika Lake, Orissa was designated as a first Indian wetland followed by Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan as wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention . 

States like Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Karnataka, Nagaland, Teleganna, Uttarakhand have no Ramsar acknowledged wetlands. 

Pointers of Wetlands

Significance over wetlands includes Carbon Sequestration, Flood control, Groundwater recharge, Nutrient retention capacity, Toxic remover and act as a biodiversity maintainer.

Swamps, Mangroves, Peat lands, Marshes play an important role in the carbon cycle. Wetland soils may contain as much as 200 times more carbon then its vegetation. As per report soil has more carbon observing capacity then the forest.

Wetlands play an important role in flood control by lessening the impact of flooding by absorbing the water and reducing the speed. Mangroves along the sea shores, especially on the western coast and Odisha helps in protecting the coastal environment from the destruction of cyclones that frequently emanates in the Bay of Bengal.

Menace on Biodiversity 

Threats like Urbanisation and land use changes, Municipal and Industrial pollution, Impact of climate change shows serious peril to the wetlands around India. It necessitated the need of conservation of wetlands and the theme of this year (2020) Wetland Day is “Wetlands and Biodiversity”. The 2020 theme for World Wetlands Day is an opportunity to highlight wetland biodiversity, its status, why it matters and to promote actions to reverse its loss.

Authored by Gowthaman K,Engineering Graduate, Adventurer and Budding Enthusiastic Flutist,